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A History of the United States 

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A History of the United States 


John Stambaugh Professor of History 
Cornell University 


Harper & Brothers Publishers 
New York and London 

Our Great Experiment in Democracy 

Copyright, 19x0, by Harper & Brothers 
Printed in the United States of America 


In the preparation of this work 
I have been greatly aided by 
my former colleague in the Uni- 
versity of Minnesota, Professor 
Guy Stanton Ford, whose excel- 
lent judgment and cordial assist- 
ance are an unfailing resource for 
all who have the good fortune 
to be associated with him. 
Carl Becker 

Ithaca, New York 
March 15, IQ20 

The work is clearly not a "history" of the 
United States in the ordinary sense of that 
much used and abused word, but rather a 
series of essays on certain important problems 
which have confronted the American people 
from colonial days to the present. 

It was written in the fall of 1918, and my 
chief purpose in writing it was to inject a 
small question mark after the assumption 
(more common then perhaps than now, but 
still often enough made) that there attaches 
to American institutions in general, and to the 
American form of government in particular, 
some sacred and sacrosanct quality of the 
changeless Absolute. I wished only to sug- 
gest, very mildly (and there is perhaps still 
some point in doing so), that American 
"democracy" was, and is, an experiment: 
originally an experiment in the sense that it 
was then relatively a new thing in the world; 
still an experiment in the sense that the pro- 
found economic changes of the last century 
are straining to the breaking point all political 
institutions derived from an earlier age. But 
for the matter of that, what is any human 
institution, what has it ever been, what can 
it ever be, but an experiment? An experi- 
mental device in humanity's great adventure 
in search of the good life ? 

Carl Becker 

Ithaca, New York, 
May 30, 1927. 



Preface ix 

I. America and Democracy i 

II. The Origins of Democracy in America . . 5 

III. The New World Experiment in Democracy 20 

IV. Democracy and Government 64 

V. New World Democracy and Old World In- 

tervention 108 

VI. Democracy and Free Land 142 

VII. Democracy and Slavery 186 

VIII. Democracy and Immigration 225 

IX. Democracy and Education 262 

X. Democracy and Equality 296 


A History of the United States 


A History of the United States 


EVERY country is important in its own eyes 
and for its own people; but some coun- 
tries have a wider significance, a significance 
for the world at large which gives them a pe- 
culiar place in the history of civilization. 
England, for example, has come to stand for 
what is roughly called political liberty; and, 
being pre-eminently the founder of colonies, 
she is sometimes called the "mother of na- 
tions." France has never been only France, 
but always something European — the source 
and the exemplar of fruitful ideas. The 
United States has likewise had its meaning for 
the Occidental world; in its own eyes and in 
the eyes of Europe it has stood for the idea of 
democracy. "Conceived in liberty and dedi- 
cated to the proposition that all men are 

created equal," its history has had the sig- 
nificance of a great social experiment. 

Americans themselves have commonly taken 
democracy for granted, but for a century in- 
telligent Europeans were aware that popular 
government and social equality on such a 
grand scale were new things in the world. 
The outcome they could not regard as a fore- 
gone conclusion, but they knew that the phe- 
nomenon was well worth careful attention, 
since it was bound, for good or for evil, to have 
a profound influence upon the trend of his- 
tory in Europe. In the course of a hundred 
years many Europeans have come to observe 
us at first hand; and from Crevecoeur to 
H. G. Wells the thing that has chiefly in- 
terested them has been the character and the 
relative success or failure of our political and 
social institutions. They have endeavored to 
estimate, for the instruction of European 
readers, the form and pressure of our democ- 
racy, in order that it might serve as an example 
or a warning to the Old World. 

With the exception of Lord Bryce, the most 
intelligent European who ever set himself the 
task of observing America at first hand was 
Alexis de Tocqueville. De Tocqueville was 
no apostle of democracy, but he convinced 
himself that it was bound to come, accepted 
it as one accepts the inevitable, and like a wise 

man wished to be prepared for it. It was in 
order to be prepared for it that he came to 
America, where he thought it could be ob- 
served in its most perfect manifestation and 
to the best advantage. 

It is not [he says] merely to satisfy a legitimate 
curiosity that I have examined America; my wish 
has been to find instruction by which we may ourselves 
profit. Whoever should imagine that I have intended 
to write a panegyric would be strangely mistaken, and 
in reading this book he will perceive that such has 
not been my design: nor has it been my object to advo- 
cate any form of government in particular, for I am of 
opinion that absolute excellence is rarely to be found 
in any legislation; I have not even affected to discuss 
whether the social revolution, which I believe to .be 
irresistible, is advantageous or prejudicial to mankind. 
I have acknowledged this revolution as a fact already 
accomplished or on the eve of its accomplishment, 
and I have selected the nation, from those that have 
undergone it, in which its development has been the 
most peaceful and the most complete, in order to dis- 
cern its natural consequences, and, if it be possible, 
to distinguish the means by which it may be rendered 
profitable. I confess that in America I saw more than 
America; J sought the image of democracy itself, with 
its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its pas- 
sions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope 
from its progress. 

This statement of Dc Tocqueville might be 
taken as representing the attitude of Europe 
toward America during the first century of her 

history as an independent nation, intelligent 
Europeans have seen in America more than 
America; they have seen in it the image of 
democracy itself. Whether this image has 
seemed to them pleasing or menacing, they 
have realized that it might teach them much 
of what they had to fear or to hope for in the 
future. In its origin and in its history the 
United States stands for democracy or it 
stands for nothing. What is the character of 
this democracy ? What were the conditions of 
its origin ? Upon what solid or fragile founda- 
tions does it rest? What is essential in order 
that it may endure? 



MANY sorts of people contributed to the 
settlement of the thirteen English col- 
onies which declared their independence of 
Great Britain on July 4, 1776. Men of all 
classes, from the noble to the jailbird, were 
among the first English immigrants in the 
seventeenth century; but for the most part 
the settlers were neither the outcasts nor 
the favorites of fortune, but the moderately 
well-to-do — lawyers, doctors, merchants, shop- 
keepers, small landowners, and peasants. The 
motives which inspired these people to try 
their fortunes in America varied with the in- 
dividual, as well as with the region in which 
they settled. Some came in a spirit of advent- 
ure, others to mend their fortunes or escape 
the consequences of crime or poverty. Certain 
colonies, such as Virginia, were founded 
chiefly by men who sought better economic 
opportunities; while others, such as Massa- 
chusetts, were founded by men whose main 


aim was to erect in the New World that ideal 
commonwealth which they despaired of ever 
seeing in Europe. However varied and inter- 
mingled these motives may have been, they 
may all be included in one motive, which was 
the desire for more freedom and a better op- 
portunity. Speaking generally, therefore, it 
may be said that the founding of the English 
colonies, which afterward became the United 
States of America, was an idealistic enterprise fr* 
— the work of discontented men who sought 
in the New World a freedom which was denied 
to them in the Old. 

In the New World they found much freedom 
of a certain kind. They found freedom from * 
tradition, and from the legal and conventional 
restraints of civilized society. In America they 
found no pope and no king, no noble lords 
levying toll upon the land, no Church exacting 
fees from the poor as the price of salvation. 
In America men found all the freedom of 
Nature. Yet Nature imposes her own con- 
straints. In this wilderness to which they 
came the early settlers found that liberty was 
the reward of those who seek out and obey 
the harsh and unproclaimed laws of the phys- 
ical universe. For many years the only liberty 
which they had was the liberty to exist, if, 
perchance, they could manage to do so. Thou- 
sands perished, but the hardy survived; the 


hardy and the adaptable, the resourceful, the 
inventive, the stubbornly persistent, those 
with a certain iron hardness in their nature, 
those with the indomitable will to conquer — 
these survived and won the freedom of the 
New World. 

While the New World of America was no 
lotos-land to be enjoyed without effort, the 
difficulties to be overcome were different in 
the North and in the South. There was every 
variation in physical environment from the 
meager soil and bitter winters of New England 
to the rich bottom-lands and almost tropical 
heat and miasmic atmosphere of South Caro- 
lina. Besides the difference in soil and climate 
the various colonies were settled by a some- 
what different class of people, and in some 
cases by people who came for quite different 
purposes. It is therefore in part due to phys- 
ical reasons and in part due to moral reasons 
that certain characteristic differences came to 
distinguish the institutions and customs of the 
New England, the Middle, and the Southern 

The people who came to Virginia were 
mostly well content to establish there the in- 
stitutions of old England, to reproduce its 
v class divisions, to perpetuate its social cus- 
toms. But it was_ fo und that the most profit- 
able thing to raise in Virginia was tobacco; 



and in spite of every effort to prevent it, to- 
bacco became the one important staple crop 
of the colony. Thus it happened, contrary to 
expectation, that Virginia was settled, not in 
compact towns on the English model, but in 
great and widely separated farms or planta- 
tions, strung along the river-banks where the 
rich bottom-lands were. The plantation was 
managed by the owner or "planter," and 
worked at first by "servants" — men who had 
sold their services for a term of years in order 
to pay the cost of their transportation to 
America — and afterward by negro slaves. 
Towns did not grow up in Virginia, because 
the plantation was a kind of economically self- 
supporting community in itself, and because 
the tobacco could be most easily shipped di- 
rectly from the planter's own docks on the 
river-front. Thus there were in Virginia only 
two classes, the planters and their subject 
servants and slaves. Virginia was in fact a 
landowning aristocracy, without nobility or 
merchant class, or any considerable small 
peasant farming class ; and the other Southern 
colonies, except North Carolina, were on the 
whole similar to Virginia in these respects. 

The New England colonies differed widely 
from Virginia, both in the motives which led to 
their settlement and in the economic charac- 
teristics of the communities which were in fact 




established there. Massachusetts, the princi- 
pal New England colony, was settled by Eng- 
lishmen who were not content to re-establish 
in America the institutions that existed in 
England. These Puritans — so called because 
they wished to "purify" the English Church* 
from "popish practices" — came to America 
primarily to establish a society which should 
be at once State and Church — a " due form of 
government, as well civil as ecclesiastical"; an 
ideal or Bible commonwealth which should be 
pleasing in the sight of God and conformable 
to His law. In Massachusetts, and this was 
true of New England as a whole, the unit of 
settlement was thus the town and the parish, 
two things intimately related; and this type 
of settlement was suited not only to the ideal 
purposes of the settlers, but also to the eco- 
nomic conditions which made Massachusetts 
a small farming country given up largely to 
the raising of grain and live stock. Every 
New England colony, therefore, was at first 
a collection of little agricultural villages or 
townships, where the people built their houses 
around the church, which was the center of 
community life, and where they distributed 
their land and managed their affairs in little 
democratic assemblies of freeholders known as 
the town meeting. 

Between the New England and the Southern 

colonies lay the Middle colonies of New York, 
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. 
They were in origin the least English of the 
Colonies. New York was originally settled by 
the Dutch, from whom it was conquered by 
England in 1664. Pennsylvania, although 
founded by the Englishman, William Penn, 
was from the beginning a refuge for the op- 
pressed of continental Europe as well as for 
the English Quakers who followed Penn to 
the New World. More composite in their 
population, the Middle colonies united in some 
measure the characteristics of the New Eng- 
land and the Southern colonies; in respect to 
their origin, the religious motive was more 
prominent than in the South, but less so than 
in New England; the small farm was the 
characteristic economic feature, but the large 
estate was common in New York; the unit of 
local government was neither the town, as in 
New England, nor the county, as in the South, 
but a combination of town and county. 

By the middle of the eighteenth century the 
population of the Colonies had reached a mill- 
ion and a half, and their increase in wealth was 
even more marked. The early eighteenth cen- 
tury was a golden age in agriculture and com- 
merce, and in this prosperity the Colonies 
shared. In nearly every colony there came to 
be a small group of landowning and commer- 


cial families of considerable wealth, closely 
interrelated by marriage, and forming a little 
colonial aristocracy which largely controlled 
the government and legislation of the colony. 
Rather sharply separated from this aristocracy 
of "best families" was the class of the "hum- 
ble folk" — the small farmers, the artisans and 
mechanics in the towns, and the servant and 
slave population — who had but little political 
or social influence. In every colony there was 
an assembly of representatives chosen for the 
most part by the property-owners, and largely 
dominated by the coterie of wealthy families. 
Aside from the legislative assemblies, which 
passed lawTmainly in the interest of the classes 
that controlled them, there was in each colony 
a governor, and in most colonies an executive 
council which was also usually an upper legis- 
lative chamber; but the governors in every 
colony, except Massachusetts, Connecticut 
and Rhode Island, and in most cases the execu- 
tive council also, were appointed by the British 
government and were supposed to represent 
the interests of the British Empire just as the 
assemblies were supposed to represent the 
interests of their particular colonies. 

The interests of the British Empire chiefly 
centered in the trade laws, those regulations 
which required the Colonies to export certain 
staple products, such as sugar, tobacco, indigo, 


and naval supplies, to Great Britain or to a 
British colony, and which likewise required 
the Colonies to import most of the manufact- 
ured commodities which they needed from 
Great Britain. The trade laws were not, for the 
most part, very serious burdens, for the British 
merchant could not profit by the ruin of the 
colonial trader, and in the long run regula- 
tions prejudicial to either were not very rigidly 
enforced. The burden of the trade laws fell 
chiefly upon the poor in England and in the 
Colonies, since the mercantile system was de- 
signed not so much for the advantage of Eng- 
land at the expense of the Colonies, but rather 
for the special advantage of the upper classes 
in both countries, the merchants and land- 
owners in England and the Colonies alike. 

Under these circumstances, the ruling classes 
— landowners, merchants, and moneyed men 
— in the Colonies as well as in England, were 
greatly interested in the defense and the ex- 
tension of the Empire., In pursuit of this ob- 
ject England fought a number of wars in 
Europe during the eighteenth century, mainly 
against France; and, inasmuch as the English 
colonies in America were in close contact with 
the French settlements to the north and west, 
every war between England and France in 
Europe was necessarily a war between the 
English and French colonies in America. What 


is known in American history as King Will- 
iam's War was but the American counterpart 
of the war of the League of Augsburg (1685- 
97); Queen Anne's War was the counter- 
part of the War of the Spanish Succession 
(1701-13); King George's War was the coun- 
terpart of the War of the Austrian Suc- 
cession (1740-48); and the French and Ind- 
ian War was the counterpart of the Seven 
Years' War (1756-63). In America all of 
these wars were in fact "French and Indian" 
wars; in all of them the colonists were ex- 
pected to defend themselves against the 
French and against their numerous Indian 
allies, on land, while the British government 
furnished them protection on the sea. Every 
colonial war was a considerable expense to 
the Colonies; but it was maintained that 
the defense and extension of the Empire was 
an advantage to the Colonies no less than to 
Great Britain. 

Of all the colonial wars of the eighteenth 
century, the most important was the last 
one, the French and Indian War (1754-63), 
which was the American counterpart of the 
Seven Years' War in Europe. In fact, the 
war broke out in America before it did in 
Europe, and the immediate cause of the war 
was the dispute between the French and Eng- 
lish in respect to their relative rights to the 


territory west of the Alleghanies. The Eng- 
lish had always claimed this territory as the 
legitimate extension of the lands which they 
occupied on the seacoast; the French claimed 
it by the right of discovery and occupation. 
The most direct entrance to the rich lands west 
of the Alleghanies was by way of the upper 
Ohio River, and it was the attempt of the 
French and English to fortify and hold the 
upper Ohio at the place where the present 
city of Pittsburg stands that precipitated the 
French and Indian War. After a long and 
difficult struggle, the English won, both in 
Europe and in America. By the Treaty of Paris 
France lost her empire in America, and Eng- 
land obtained all the French possessions east 
of the Mississippi, except New Orleans. 

The year 1763, which marks the close of 
this seven years' conflict, was an important 
date in the history of the world. In Europe 
the war had taken the form of an attempt to 
destroy the rising power of Frederick the 
Great. That object was not attained, and the 
chief results of the war were, therefore, two: 
it assured the ultimate ascendancy of Prussia 
over Austria in Germany, and it assured the 
maritime and commercial ascendancy of Eng- 
land over France in India and America. Yet 
the Treaty of Paris, which seemed to open 
the way for a great extension of the British 

Empire in North America, was in fact the 
prelude to the loss of its chief possessions there ; 
for with 1763 we may date the beginning of 
that long conflict between the Colonies and 
the mother country of which the outcome was 
the establishment of the United States as an 
independent nation. 

The war itself laid the foundation for this 
conflict. x During the war the Colonies levied 
and equipped about twenty-five thousand 
troops, and these troops, although they could 
not alone have driven the French out of Mon- 
treal and Quebec, gave essential assistance in 
achieving that end.'*' The Colonies had good 
reason, therefore, to feel that they had done 
their full part in expelling the French from 
North America; and they were much in- 
clined to think that for the future, especially 
as the danger from France was now once for 
all removed, they could easily defend them- 
selves without any British aid at all. The 
general effect of the French and Indian War 
upon the Colonies was one of emancipation — 
it gave them a sense of power and indepen- 
dence such as they had never known before. 

This feeling of emancipation was due not 
only to the fact that the Colonies had aided 
in winning the war, but also to the fact that 
for the first time they had acted together for__ 
a common end. The Colonies had always 


been noted for the spirit of jealousy and sus- 
picion which characterized their dealings with 
one another. Puritan New England had looked 
askance at her neighbors because of their re- 
ligious beliefs and practices, while the Vir- 
ginia and South Carolina planters, and the 
wealthy merchants of New York, who copied 
the manners and the dress of the English 
"gentleman," made sport of the grave man- 
ners and precise speech of the solemn New- 
Englanders. In 1760 Benjamin Franklin 
wrote that no one need fear that the Colonies 
would "unite against their own nation, which 
protects them and encourages them, with 
which they have so many ties of blood, in- 
terest, and affection, and which 'tis well known 
they all love much more than they love one an- 
other." Intercolonial jealousy and suspicion 
— the spirit of provincialism or particularism — 
was indeed still very strong after the war, and 
for many generations it was to play a great 
part in the history of the United States ; but 
although the French and Indian War did little 
or nothing to bring about a formal union of 
the Colonies, it led them to realize that they 
could unite if they wished to do so, and that 
they had, after all, much in common, which 
ought to make them wish to do so. The men 
from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and 
Virginia, who had been brought together and 


who had fought side by side with the British 
regulars during the war, came to realize as 
never before that these Englishmen were some- 
how different from the colonials, and that a 
Massachusetts man was, after all, much more 
like a Virginian than either was like the Eng- 
lishman. The French and Indian War, in 
fact, greatly strengthened the sense of inter- 
colonial solidarity. Men began to think of 
themselves as in some sense Americans and 
not simply as Virginians or Massachusetts 
men; they thought of themselves as British- 
Americans, and to think of themselves so was 
to be aware that there was something more 
fundamental than mere geographical location 
which separated Americans from British. In a 
vague and intangible way the conception of an 
American nation was beginning to take form. 
The feeling of intercolonial solidarity was 
strengthened by the rapid growth of the Col- 
onies in wealth and population. Some years 
before, Franklin had pointed out the fact 
that the population of the Colonies doubled 
every twenty years, and on account of the 
immense stretches of free land it would con- 
tinue to do so for an indefinite future. On the 
other hand, no European country had ever 
attained such a rate of increase, and during 
the last hundred years the population of 
England had not doubled once. From these 


facts it seemed reasonable to suppose that 
within the next hundred years the center of 
wealth and population of the British Empire 
would be in America rather than in Europe. 
Furthermore, on account of this increase in 
population, the Colonies were every year be- 
coming more important to England as markets 
for her manufactured goods. Thus at the 
moment when the Colonies were beginning to 
feel strong enough to get along without the pro- 
tection of Great Britain, they were also com- 
ing to feel in some measure that Great Britain 
could not very well get along without them. 

Not only did the French and Indian War 
change the attitude of the Colonies toward 
Great Britain, it also changed the attitude of 
Great Britain toward the Colonies. For seven 
years Great Britain had been fighting not only 
in America, but in Europe and in India and 
on the sea — in the "four parts of the world," 
as Voltaire said. Within seven years, as a 
result of these wars for the defense and ex- 
tension of the Empire, the public debt had 
doubled. Much of this debt had been con- 
tracted for maintaining the English fleet and 
army in America, and Englishmen were in- 
clined to overlook the assistance rendered by 
the Colonies and to take to themselves the 
credit for the expulsion of the French from 
Canada — without the British troops, they 

were inclined to think, the colonists would 
have found themselves subjugated to the 
Bourbon despotism. It seemed only right, 
therefore, that the Colonies should contribute 
something to the defense of the Empire in 
return for the protection which had been ex- 
tended to them. On account of the great 
expansion of the British possessions in Amer- 
ica, the British government felt that it was 
necessary to retain a part of the British army 
in the Colonies as a check against the Indians 
and in order to assure an effective control 
of Canada, and it was generally thought in 
England that the Colonies could not reason- 
ably object to paying some tax or contribu- 
tion in partial support of this army which 
was to be stationed among them for their own 

Thus, in 1763, the very time when the 
Colonies were acquiring a new sense of 
strength and independence, the British gov- 
ernment was preparing to adopt measures for 
the closer integration of the Empire and for 
imposing upon the Colonies some part of the 
burden of imperial defense. The attempt of 
the government, in 1764-65, to lay taxes for 
this purpose was the beginning of ten years 
of controversy and strife which led finally to 
the American Revolution and the indepen- 
dence of the Thirteen Colonies. 





IN 1760, three years before the Peace of 
Paris was signed, George III became King 
of England. This was an event of great im- 
portance in the history of England and of the 
United States, on account of two political 
objects which the new king pursued with 
stubborn persistence during the first twenty 
years of his reign. In the first place, George 
III was always in favor of the policy of taxing 
the Colonies and of subjecting them to the 
authority of the British Parliament. In the 
second place, he was determined to make the 
Ministers carry out the policy of the king 
rather than a policy imposed upon the king 
by the Parliament. The twofold aim of 
George III was to establish the supremacy of 
the Parliament over the Colonies, and to es- 
tablish the supremacy of the king over the 
Parliament; and these two vital questions, 


the question of colonial rights and the ques- 
tion of parliamentary government in England, 
were bound up one with the other, inasmuch 
as the success of the king in achieving the one 
aim was likely to result in his achieving the 
other aim also. 

This does not mean, as is often supposed, 
that all those who opposed the king's scheme 
of breaking away from the control of Parlia- 
ment also opposed the taxation of the Col- 
onies. In 1765 nearly every one in England 
who thought about the matter thought it 
only right that the Colonies should pay taxes 
in their own defense, and very few regarded 
it as unjust or illegal for Parliament to levy 
those taxes. The famous Stamp Tax was 
passed in 1765, after a year's notice, with 
scarcely any opposition either in Parliament 
or out of it. Indeed there was but little in- 
terest in the matter, because no one supposed 
that there would be any serious objection. 
Edmund Burke said that he never listened to 
a more languid debate; and Horace Walpole, 
who afterward became a rabid supporter of 
the Colonies, mentions the passage of the 
Stamp Act as one might mention any unim- 
portant act of legislative routine. At the time 
no one realized that this act would lead to 
controversy, to strife, and finally to revolu- 
tion and the disruption of the Empire. 


Such complete misunderstanding of the im- 
portance of the Stamp Act was due to the 
significant fact that whereas nearly every one 
in England thought the law a just and reason- 
able one, nearly every one in America thought 
it an unjust and an unreasonable one. What 
was the cause of this remarkable difference in 
the point of view of the two groups of English- 
speaking peoples ? The explanation has some- 
times been that the colonial leaders used this 
opportunity to carry out a malign and delib- 
erately conceived conspiracy to precipitate a 
rebellion in order to win political indepen- 
dence. But there is slight evidence in support 
of this idea. In 1765 practically all Americans 
were proud of being British-Americans, they 
gloried in the greatness of little old England, 
and they looked forward with pride to the 
great role which the British Empire would 
play in the future history of the world. Very 
few colonists at that time dreamed of inde- 
pendence, or thought it possible for the Col- 
onies to be happy or prosperous except as 
parts of the Empire. In the desire to preserve 
and to strengthen this Empire, both English- 
men and Americans were agreed; but they 
differed radically in their ideas of how the 
Empire ought to be organized and governed, 
and it is this difference which explains why 
the former thought the Stamp Act just and 


reasonable, while the latter thought it unjust 
and unreasonable. 

In the eighteenth century English govern- 
ment, and to a large extent English opinion 
in political matters, was controlled by a fairly 
small and a fairly selfish landowning and com- 
mercial oligarchy; and the complacence and 
egoism of this oligarchy were never greater 
than just after the Seven Years' War, when 
all the world was fearing or admiring the tre- 
mendous success of Great Britain. Naturally 
enough, therefore, the average Englishman 
felt that this Empire, about which the great 
Pitt had talked so much, was the result of 
the virtues and the sacrifices of England, and 
that as it had been created so it must neces- 
sarily be held together by the force of British 
arms and of British laws. Apart from such 
control, the average Englishman was apt to 
say, India and the American Colonies would 
have been subjected to the despotism of the 
French kings; and what could be more rea- 
sonable, therefore, than to suppose that the 
defense and the development of the Empire 
must be undertaken by the only supreme 
power there was — namely, the British Parlia- 
ment. If every part of the Empire should be 
allowed to do as it liked, there wouldn't be 
any Empire very long, and nothing but a self- 
ish desire to escape their fair share of the 
3 23 

burden of defense could lead the Americans 
to object to so reasonable and moderate a 
tax as the Stamp Tax. 

The American colonists regarded the Em- 
pire in a somewhat different light. They knew 
very well, what the Englishman was likely to 
forget, that in the seventeenth century the 
Colonies had been established without much 
aid from England, in some cases by people 
who had been driven out of England in order 
to escape religious or political oppression; 
and they were aware that if the English 
government had neglected the Colonies in the 
seventeenth century and had allowed them to 
do very much as they liked, it was because they 
were not regarded as of great importance. 
The Americans felt also that the new interest 
in the Colonies which the English government 
was now exhibiting was due to the fact that 
the trade of the Colonies was becoming su- 
premely important to the commercial and 
landowning aristocracy of England. As for 
the conquest of Canada, they felt that they 
had done even more than their share, a fact 
which the British government itself recognized 
by repaying to them a part of the money which 
they had raised during the war. In a word, the 
Americans felt that whatever importance the 
American Colonies had as parts of the Em- 
pire, whatever economic or military or polit- 


ical value they possessed, was due to the labor 
and the sacrifices of the colonists themselves, 
who therefore deserved quite as much credit 
for building up the wonderful British Empire 
as the people of England. 

The fundamental notion of Americans was 
admirably expressed by Benjamin Franklin 
in 1755: 

British subjects, by removing to America, cultivating 
a wilderness, extending the domain, and increasing 
the wealth, commerce, and power of the mother coun- 
try, at the hazard of their lives and fortunes, ought not, 
and in fact do not thereby lose their native rights. 

By their native rights, Americans meant the 
traditional right of Englishmen to govern and 
tax themselves in assemblies of their own 
choosing. Englishmen had such an assembly 
in Parliament, but the Colonies were not, and 
in the nature of the case could not well be 
represented in Parliament ; but they had now, 
and had always had, their own assemblies by 
which they had hitherto governed and taxed 
themselves. These assemblies they wished at 
all hazards to keep. It was through these 
assemblies that they had raised the money 
to support the Empire in the last war against 
France, and they were quite willing in the 
future to raise their fair share of taxes for 
the support of the Empire ; but they wished 


to raise these taxes through their own as- 
semblies in their own way. If the Parliament 
could levy and collect a Stamp Tax, it could 
levy and collect any and all taxes, and it 
could regulate the powers of the colonial as- 
semblies or abolish them altogether. The 
right of Parliament to tax the Colonies in fact 
involved the right to abolish colonial self- 
government; and fundamentally, therefore, 
the Colonies were contending for the right of 
J self-government. 

In defense of this right the colonists re- 
sisted the Stamp Tax. All classes refused to 
use the stamped papers; in many cases the 
stamps were destroyed by mobs; and the 
merchants bound themselves not to import 
commodities from England until the act 
should be repealed. Partly on account of 
opposition in the Colonies, partly on account 
of the pressure from the English merchants, 
who complained that their business was being 
ruined, the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766. 
But the next year, after a change of Ministry, 
certain duties known as the Townshend duties 
were laid on the importation of tea, glass, 
painters' colors, and paper. The colonists 
had claimed that the Stamp Tax was uncon- 
stitutional because it was an "internal" tax; 
but now they abandoned the distinction be- 
tween internal and external taxes and objected 


to the levying of any taxes whatever, including 
import duties intended to raise a revenue. 
After three years of controversy and strife, 
of rioting and of restrictive non-importation 
agreements, the British government again 
yielded and repealed all of the duties save the 
threepenny duty on tea, which was main- 
tained, not for the revenue which it would 
bring in, but as an assertion of the right of* 
Parliament to levy taxes on the Colonies. 

Although the Colonies insisted that the 
duty on tea was unconstitutional, the con- 
troversy largely subsided during the years from 
1770 to 1773. In the latter year, however, the 
old dispute was revived by a resolution of 
Parliament giving to the East India Company 
a practical monopoly of the importation of 
tea into the Colonies. Taking advantage of 
this opportunity to gain control of a very 
profitable colonial business, the company sent 
over four cargoes of tea billed to the four ports 
of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and 
Charleston. The Boston shipment arrived 
first, in the fall of 1773, but when it was at- 
tempted to land the tea, a crowd of men dis- 
guised as Indians boarded the ship and threw 
the tea into the harbor. In New York and 
Philadelphia the tea was sent back to England, 
and at Charleston it was stored in the base- 
ment of the custom-house. In reply to these 


acts, particularly to the destruction of the 
tea at Boston, the British government de- 
cided to make a final test of the authority 
of Parliament. By overwhelming majorities 
the Parliament passed what were known as 
the Coercive acts, one of which suspended the 
Massachusetts government and placed the 
colony practically under military rule, while 
another closed the port of Boston until the 
town should make compensation to the East 
India Company for the loss of its property. 
As the king said, "The die is now cast; the 
colonists must either submit or win complete 
independence." This was true, and, now that 
the issue was so clearly one of legislative in- 
dependence and not merely one of taxation, 
the colonists gradually changed their argu- 
ment once more, and from this time on were 
inclined to deny not merely the right of Par- 
liament to tax the Colonies, but the right of 
Parliament to legislate for them at all. 

It was on this theory that the war was 
waged. According to this theory, as the 
colonists finally elaborated it, the Empire was 
regarded as a loose union of semi-independent 
states; and just as England and Ireland and 
Hanover each had its own government, so 
the American Colonies must have their own 
governments, all of these separate countries 
and governments being united under the king 


without being subject to the Parliament. The 
English Parliament, according to this theory, 
would be primarily the legislature for Eng- 
land and Scotland; but on account of its 
central and imperial position it would also 
exercise a directing and supervising control 
of matters of purely imperial concern, such 
as international relations and general com- 
mercial regulations; but it would have no 
control whatever over the local legislative 
concerns of the Colonies any more than over 
the local concerns of Hanover. The famous 
Declaration of Independence was constructed 
on this theory. It does not mention Parlia- 
ment ; the charges of tyranny and oppression 
are all directed against the king, on the 
ground that the Colonies could declare their 
independence of the king only, since the king 
was the only authority to which they had ever 
been legally subject. 

The battle of Yorktown made it clear to 
all, even to the stubborn king himself, that 
the attempt to subject the Colonies to par- 
liamentary control must be abandoned. But 
in abandoning this object the king had ako 
to forgo the attempt to establish royal su- 
premacy over Parliament. In a very real 
sense the victory at Yorktown in 1781 not 
only established the independence of the 
United States, but contributed to the triumph 


of the principle of parliamentary government 
in England as well. 

From his accession, in 1760, to the end of 
the Revolution George III steadily labored 
to undermine the principle of the responsi- 
bility of Ministers to Parliament. His ideal 
of government was not different from that of 
Bismarck and Kaiser William II: it was the 
king's duty to rule his people, to rule them 
wisely and well in a paternal spirit ; it was the 
duty of the people to submit dutifully to this 
paternal wisdom; as for the Parliament, that 
was a body of representative men whose busi- 
ness it was to give advice to their master so 
that he might indeed rule wisely, but never 
to force its advice upon him. George III 
would therefore have Ministers of his own 
choice who were entirely responsible to him 
and not to the Parliament; he would have 
Ministers who, because they were chosen by 
him from all parties, would be subject to no 
party and would be able, therefore, to give 
him disinterested advice. For twenty years 
the king worked steadily to realize this type 
of benevolent despotism in England. 

It is not likely that the king could in any 
case have succeeded. Nevertheless, his object 
was not an impossible one. At that time the 
principle of ministerial responsibility to Par- 
liament was by no means firmly established 


in English political practice, and the condi- 
tions of English politics were so undemocratic 
and in many respects so corrupt that there 
was something to be said in favor of the king's 
contention. The English Parliament in the 
eighteenth century was a representative body, 
but it was not a democratic body. It really 
represented those great landowners and mer- 
chant princes who were able, through their 
wealth and social influence and by virtue of 
a peculiarly inequitable system of elections, 
to control in large measure the return of mem- 
bers to Parliament. The political leaders who 
looked out for the interests of these classes 
were divided into a number of groups or " fac- 
tions." They all called themselves "Whigs" 
because the term "Tory" had fallen into dis- 
repute since 17 14, when Lord Bolingbroke 
and other Tories had opposed the accession 
of the Hanoverian dynasty and had intrigued 
to bring back instead the exiled Stuarts. 
From 1 7 14 to 1760, therefore, the government 
of England fell into the hands of the Whigs; 
and at the time of the accession of George III, 
in 1760, the various Whig factions — the Bed- 
ford Whigs and Pelham Whigs and Grenville 
Whigs — had come to think of government as 
a kind of vested right to be enjoyed by them 
forever. And in particular they had come to 
think of the king's Ministers as men who 


must be the responsible leaders of Parliament, 
as men who must adopt policies which could 
be carried through Parliament. 

Now George III was not willing to submit 
to ministerial, that is to say, to parliamentary, 
control. George III was the first of the House 
of Hanover who could speak the English 
language as his native tongue, and he was the 
first to be more interested in his English pos- 
sessions than in his Hanoverian possessions. 
"Born and bred an Englishman," he said, "I 
glory in the name of Briton." He not only 
gloried in the name of Briton, he gloried also 
in the name of king; and from the first day 
of his reign he was determined to be a real 
king, to formulate his own policies, and to 
destroy the controlling power of the great 
Whig families. It must be confessed that 
there is not much to be said for the Whig 
factions, or, with exceptions, for their leaders. 
Such men as the Duke of Newcastle, the Duke 
of Bedford, George Grenville, or Charles 
Townshend were more intent upon advancing 
their own political interests, or in circumvent- 
ing the intrigues of a rival faction, than they 
were in advancing the interests of the nation 
or defending or promoting the cause of free 
government. The famous William Pitt, a 
great liberal and a friend of the right of the 
Colonies to tax themselves, was nevertheless 


as hostile to the Whig factions as the king 
himself, and as willing to see them destroyed. 
But the king aimed to do more than to destroy 
the Whig factions; he aimed to make the 
king independent of Parliament — to restore 
the powers and prerogatives which the kings 
had enjoyed before the Revolution of 1688. 
Thus it happened that in resisting the king, 
and in trying to force their Ministers upon 
him, the corrupt Whig factions, whatever the 
motive may have been which inspired their 
action, were really fighting for the principle 
of representative government against the prin- 
ciple of royal supremacy. 

This conflict between the king and the Whig 
factions went on during the first twenty years 
of the new reign; and as time passed it became 
clear that the question of parliamentary as 
against royal control in the English govern- 
ment was bound up with the question of the 
success or failure of the Colonies in their strug- 
gle for self-government. The number of men 
who supported the Colonies was not great, 
although they were often men of the greatest 
ability, such as Pitt and Burke and Fox; and 
when the Colonies declared their indepen- 
dence many men in England who had formerly 
supported them now rallied to the support 
of the government's policy. Pitt himself was 
one of these; and in fact it was the revolt of 


the Colonies which temporarily rallied the 
great majority of Englishmen to the support 
of the king and enabled him to build up a 
"King's Party" in Parliament that steadily 
carried the policies of his Minister, Lord 
North, who in turn took his instructions from 
the king. During the American war, which 
was the period of the Ministry of the sub- 
servient Lord North, the king was thus able 
to attain his object of subjecting the Parlia- 
ment to the royal will. But it was precisely 
because the revolt of the Colonies had thrown 
all power into the hands of the king that the 
maintenance of this power depended upon 
the outcome of the Revolution. If the king 
could subjugate the Colonies, his system of 
government would be justified ; if the Colonies 
won independence, such a disaster to the Em- 
pire would entirely and forever discredit his 
system of government. This, in fact, came to 
pass; the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown 
sealed the fate of Lord North's Ministry, and 
with the fall of Lord North the subjection of 
Parliament to the royal will was at an end. 


The American Revolution was thus prima- 
rily a struggle between the Colonies and Great 
Britain over the question of self-government 


— a struggle which was bound up with the 
question of royal as against parliamentary 
government in England, of popular govern- 
ment against a possible autocracy. But there 
was also another phase of the Revolution, 
and that was the struggle within the Colonies 
themselves between the little commercial and 
landowning aristocracies that had hitherto 
governed the Colonies and the "people," the 
unfranchised "humble folk," who now were 
coming to demand a measure of political* 
equality. This struggle runs throughout the 
period of the controversy with Great Britain 
from 1765 to 1776; and while it was somewhat 
diminished during the period of the war itself, 
it broke out again with renewed force after 
the war was over. In fact, the American 
Revolution was not only a movement for 
national independence from Great Britain; 
it was also a movement for the democratiza- 
tion of American society and politics — a move- 
ment which has continued from that day to 
this and which is the central theme of our 

In 1765 the right of voting in the American 
Colonies for members of the colonial assem- 
blies was in general restricted to those who 
possessed property, or met certain educational 
or religious tests. In most colonies a majority, 
and in all a considerable minority, of the adult 


male citizens were disfranchised. Besides, 
the methods of naming candidates and of vot- 
ing were such as to place a determining in- 
fluence in the hands of a small coterie of 
wealthy families — the so-called "best fami- 
lies" of the province. These best families, 
together with the governors, who were mostly 
appointed from England and frequently from 
among these very families, made a very dis- 
tinctive and powerful upper class — a well- 
intrenched aristocracy which was the real 
governing force in each colony. In Virginia 
and South Carolina this class was composed 
of the great tidewater planters, whose ex- 
tensive fields of tobacco, rice, and indigo were 
cultivated by means of negro slaves. In the 
Middle colonies there were not only the great 
landowners, whose estates were cultivated 
mainly by tenant labor, but also the wealthy 
commercial families of the cities of New York 
and Philadelphia. In New England there 
were fewer great estates and the small free- 
holders were more numerous; but there also 
a political and social aristocracy had come 
into existence — descendants of the old official 
and clerical leaders closely allied with fam- 
ilies that had gained prominence in law or 

Sharply distinguished from these "gentle- 
folk," in dress and manners as well as in 


social and political influence, was the great 
mass of the population — artisans and labor- 
ers, tenant and small freehold farmers. In 
the Middle and Southern colonies this dis- 
tinction had come to have a territorial as 
well as a social and economic basis. In Vir- 
ginia the poorer classes had moved "west" 
beyond the first falls of the rivers, into the 
piedmont or "up-country," where land was 
plentiful and cheap; while in Pennsylvania 
German and Scotch-Irish immigrants in great 
numbers had settled in the interior counties 
and from there had followed the valleys south- 
ward into the Virginia and Maryland up- 
country and even as far south as the Carolinas. 
In this back-country the soil was not adapted 
to tobacco or rice. Here there were no great 
estates, no slaves, and few "servants," no 
houses with pretensions to architectural ex- 
cellence, no leisured class with opportunities 
or inclinations for acquiring the manners or 
the tastes of the "gentleman." Here every 
man earned his bread by the sweat of his brow, 
manners were rude and primitive, institutions 
were simple, men lived close to the soil, 
equality was a fact, and freedom was limited 
only by the stubborn resistance of nature. 

The conflict between the interests and ideals 
of these two classes and these two regions was 
already beginning when the controversy be- 


tween the British government and the Col- 
onies began; and from the first the two is- 
sues became more or less identified. This 
was strikingly the case in Virginia in respect 
to the resolutions to be adopted in protest 
against the Stamp Act. In the session of 
the House of Burgesses of 1765 the old lead- 
ers of the tidewater region, who had always 
managed the colony, were opposed to adopt- 
ing any resolutions at that time, since they had 
already, in 1764, drawn up a mild protest 
against the passage of the act. But there was 
present at this session the famous orator and 
tribune of the people, Patrick Henry, who had 
recently made a name for himself by expos- 
ing the shady actions of the treasurer, John 
Robinson, a prominent member of the aris- 
tocracy. This was equivalent to challenging 
the supremacy of the little group of tidewater 
planters, who had come to look upon the 
management of the colony as their vested 
duty. The episode had given Patrick Henry 
a great name in the province, and had got 
him a considerable following among the young 
men and small planters throughout the prov- 
ince, and especially in the back-country where 
he was born and raised and which he repre- 
sented. In this session of 1765 Henry took 
the lead against the conservatives in intro- 
ducing and passing a set of resolutions which 


protested much more vigorously against the 
Stamp Act than the old leaders desired. 

The episode was afterward described by 
Thomas Jefferson, at that time a young law 
student, who watched with interest the doings 
of the Virginia House of Burgesses. 

Mr. Henry moved and Mr. Johnston seconded these 
resolutions successively. They were opposed by Messrs. 
Randolph, Bland, Pendleton, Wythe, and all the old 
members, whose influence in the House had, till then, 
been unbroken. They did it, not from any question 
of our rights, but on the ground that the same senti- 
ments had been, at their preceding session, expressed 
in a more conciliatory form, to which the answers were 
not yet received. But torrents of sublime eloquence 
from Henry, backed by the solid reasoning of John- 
ston, prevailed. The last, however, and strongest 
resolution was carried but by a single vote. The debate 
on it was most bloody. I was then but a student, and 
stood at the door of communication between the House 
and the lobby; . . . and I well remember that, after the 
members on the division were told and declared from 
the chair, Peyton Randolph came out at the door where 
I was standing, and said, as he entered the lobby, 
"By God! I would have given five hundred guineas for 
a single vote." 

This was only the beginning of a long strug- 
gle between the old leaders, endeavoring to 
maintain their social and political predomi- 
nance in the province, and the young radicals, 
backed by the people of the back-country, of 
4 39 

whom Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson 
and Richard Henry Lee were the leaders. In 
every stage of the conflict with Great Britain 
the old leaders showed themselves more cau- 
tious and conservative, the radicals more 
vigorous and uncompromising, in asserting 
the rights of the Colonies and in advocating 
measures of resistance. But the difference 
between the two parties went deeper. The 
radicals wanted to democratize the social and 
political institutions of Virginia, while the old 
leaders wanted to maintain their supremacy; 
and when the breach with England finally 
came and a new constitution had to be formed, 
Jefferson and his associates attempted to make 
the new constitution strictly democratic, with 
universal manhood suffrage, the abolition of 
entail in land and of primogeniture, and the 
disestablishment of the Anglican Church. Jef- 
ferson even went so far as to talk of the aboli- 
tion of slavery. The democrats in Virginia 
were not able to get everything they wanted; 
but they accomplished much. They not only 
pushed the old aristocracy into the Revolu- 
tionary War, but they established a far more 
democratic government in Virginia than the 
old leaders of the colony would have estab- 
lished if it had been left to them. It was the 
declaration of rights prefixed to this consti- 
tution that was translated and circulated in 


France, and that became in some degree a 
model for the famous French Declaration of 
the Rights of Man and the Citizen. 

Very similar was the conflict in Pennsyl- 
vania between the Scotch-Irish and Germans 
of the interior and the Quaker-merchant aris- 
tocracy of Philadelphia. The people in the 
frontier counties complained that the ap- 
portionment of representatives, the money 
system, and the organization of the courts 
of justice were all devised to benefit the Quak- 
ers and merchants and to perpetuate their 
power. "We apprehend/' so runs a petition 
from the German and Scotch-Irish counties 
of the interior, "that as freemen and English 
subjects we have an indisputable title to the 
same privileges and immunities with his Maj- 
esty's other subjects who reside in the coun- 
ties of Philadelphia, Chester, and Bucks." 
The Scotch-Irish and Germans of the interior 
counties, together with the mechanics and 
artisans of Philadelphia, made the strength 
of the radical party. The frontier counties 
in Pennsylvania, like the frontier counties in 
Virginia, were strong partizans of the struggle 
against England, partly because they had no 
reason to like England, but partly because they 
felt that the argument in favor of the rights of 
the Colonies against England could be used 
equally in support of their own rights against 


the privileges of the merchants and Quak- 
ers in Pennsylvania. In 1775-76, when the 
first constitution of Pennsylvania was estab- 
lished, the essential issue was between the 
Scotch-Irish radicals, who wanted a strictly 
democrat constitution, and the eastern men, 
who wished so far as possible to preserve their 
own supremacy. 

Nowhere was this conflict between the popu- 
lar and the aristocratic classes more marked 
than in Massachusetts. The most influential 
man in Massachusetts at that time was 
Thomas Hutchinson, whose family had been 
prominent in Boston since the founding of 
the colony. He was a man of excellent edu- 
cation and of great ability, and in 1771, at 
the age of sixty, had held nearly every elective 
and appointive office in the province. He was 
also a man of wealth and related to most of 
the influential families of wealth in Massa- 
chusetts — the most prominent member of the 
Boston " aristocracy " which had long gov- 
erned the Old Bay Colony. 

In sharp contrast to Mr. Hutchinson were 
two men who became famous leaders in the 
Revolution — Samuel and John Adams. In 
1765 Samuel Adams was a middle-aged man 
who had lost a fair patrimony, and who was 
barely able to support his family. John Adams 
was a young lawyer, just coming into promi- 


nence; but he felt very keenly, as his inter- 
esting Diary enables us to see, that he had 
not a fair and equal opportunity in life be- 
cause social opportunity and political power 
had come to be so largely monopolized by the 
small group of wealthy and closely interre- 
lated families of which that of Thomas Hutch- 
inson was the chief. And throughout the 
struggle with Great Britain, in which John 
Adams took a leading part, it is clear that in 
his mind the people of Massachusetts were 
endeavoring to emancipate themselves, not 
only from the autocratic control of the Eng- 
lish government, but also from the domina- 
tion of a Boston aristocracy; his animosity 
toward Thomas Hutchinson was much greater 
than toward King George or Lord North. 

The way in which these two issues were 
often united is well illustrated in connection 
with the famous Stamp Act controversy. 
The Stamp Act required, among other things, 
that practically all legal documents should 
be executed on stamped paper. Almost every 
one in the colony, including Mr. Hutchinson, 
was opposed to the Stamp Act; but the Stamp 
Act could be resisted in one of two ways — 
one legal and the other illegal. The legal way 
to resist it was not to execute any document 
which required the use of the stamped papers ; 
the illegal way was to go on executing docu- 


mcnts just as if no Stamp Act existed. Thomas 
Hutchinson, and most men of wealth and posi- 
tion in the colony, preferred to resist the 
Stamp Act in the legal way, and they there- 
fore adjourned the courts of law from time to 
time. This method appealed to conservative 
men, whose incomes were assured, who were 
not much affected by a temporary cessation 
of business, and who wished not to compromise 
their position by any action that could be 
called illegal. But rising young lawyers like 
John Adams found that if the courts closed 
their fees were cut off and their position at 
once became precarious. The closing of the 
courts, John Adams wrote in his Diary, "will 
make a great chasm in my affairs, if it does 
not reduce me to distress." And in another 
place he says that he was just at the point of 
winning a competence and a reputation "when 
this execrable Stamp Act came for my ruin 
and that of my country." 

This naive statement reveals one of the 
reasons — not the only reason, but one of the 
reasons — why John Adams, and all those who 
depended on fees and wages for a living, those 
whose interest it was to have business in a 
flourishing condition, were in favor of the 
more radical method, the illegal method, of 
resisting the Stamp Act, while men of wealth 
who lived on their incomes could afford to 


adopt the more cautious and conservative 
method. And thus it happened that John 
Adams came to think Thomas Hutchinson as 
much an enemy of colonial rights as Mr. 
Grenville. He convinced himself that Mr. 
Hutchinson and his wealthy friends, while 
professing to oppose the Stamp Act, were 
really tools of the British government and 
were trying in this indirect way to force the 
people to submit to the Stamp Act. He rea- 
soned that the Boston aristocracy was able 
to maintain its privileged position in Massa- 
chusetts only because it was backed by the 
British government; and thus the struggle 
against parliamentary taxation came to be 
identified with the struggle against a privileged 
class in the colony. 

It is this aspect of the Revolution that gives 
it its chief significance for modern democracy. 
The privileged classes in the Colonies, gener- 
ally speaking, never really desired separation 
from Great Britain. They took old England 
as their ideal. Outside of New England most 
educated men were educated in England, and 
wished for nothing better than to fashion 
their clothes, their houses, their minds, and 
their manners on the best English models. 
They opposed parliamentary taxation be- 
cause they wanted to manage their own 
affairs in miniature parliaments, where they 


t could carry on miniature contests with the 
governors for the control of the purse, after 
the manner of the English Parliament in the 
seventeenth century. In no sense were they 
democrats; and they were as much afraid of 
radical movements in the Colonies as they 
were of British oppression. They wanted to 
preserve their liberties against Parliament, 
without sharing their privileges with the peo- 
ple in the Colonies. They wanted home rule, 
but they wanted to rule at home. Left to*' 
themselves, the governing classes in America 
would never have carried the contest to the 
point of rebellion, would never have created 
an independent state. 

The opposition to this ideal gradually trans- 
formed the Revolution into a social as well 
as a political movement. Men of true demo- 
cratic feeling came to see that the mere main- 
tenance of what were called English liberties 
would leave things much as they were, even 
if the Colonies should separate from Great 
Britain. They wanted not simply an in- 
dependent state, but a new kind of state. 
They were aiming at something more than 
could be justified by an appeal to the cus- 
tomary rights of Englishmen. Whether the 
customary rights of Englishmen supported 
the contention of the Colonies or the conten- 
tions of the king depended upon fine points 


in law and history. But it was a question 
that could be ably argued on both sides. In 
any case, there was nothing in the customary 
rights of Englishmen that could be used in 
support of equal rights for all, poor and rich 
alike. And so, step by step, the radical leaders 
broadened out their political theory, and came 
finally to rest their cause not merely on the 
positive and prescriptive rights of English- 
men, but upon the natural and universal rights 
of man as well. 

As the Revolution ceased to be a mere con- 
test for the rights of Englishmen and took 
on the character of a contest for the rights 
of man, it acquired an idealistic and semi- 
mystical quality and gathered to itself, as all 
such movements do, the emotional force of a 
religious conviction. Mr. Lecky says that the 
American Revolution was essentially sordid, 
being concerned fundamentally with a mere 
money dispute. There was much that was 
sordid in the motives and the actions of many 
men who took part in the Revolutionary War, 
but nothing could be more profoundly wrong 
than to regard the principal leaders as in- 
spired by no higher motive than that of safe- 
guarding their property. The conflict with 
Great Britain began as a money dispute; but 
in the end it came to be transfigured, in the 
minds of the American patriots, into one of the 


great epic conflicts of the world. We have 
ourselves lived through such a transfiguration. 
The Great War began as a conflict for land 
and trade, but it speedily took on, in the 
minds of the people concerned, the aspect of 
a titanic struggle between the powers of light 
and of darkness, a struggle which men fondly, 
if vainly, hoped would bring in a new interna- 
tional order based upon the principles of jus- 
tice and humanity. So it was with the 
American Revolution. American patriots came 
to think of themselves as hazarding their lives 
and their fortunes for the sake of a new social 
order, the ideal society founded upon the en- 
during principles of liberty, equality, and 

There is a striking similarity between the 
ideals and the language of the American pa- 
triots and the radical leaders of the French 
Revolution. They speak with the same lyrical 
enthusiasm, like men who are defending and 
propagating a new religion. "It is impossible," 
writes Richard Henry Lee, "that vice can so 
triumph over virtue as that the slaves of 
Tyranny should succeed against the brave 
and generous asserters of Liberty and the just 
rights of humanity." Consider the dry com- 
mon sense with which Doctor Johnson disposed 
of the alleged tyranny of Great Britain : " But 
I say, if the rascals are so prosperous, op- 


pression has agreed with them, or there has 
been no oppression"; and contrast this with 
the reverent solemnity with which John Adams 
speaks of his associates as belonging to " that 
mighty line of heroes and confessors and 
martyrs who since the beginning of history 
have done battle for the dignity of and happi- 
ness of human nature against the leagued as- 
sailants of both." 

John Adams was one of the most hard- 
headed of the radical leaders, no unbalanced 
visionary dreaming fantastic dreams, and yet 
John Adams, in 1775, clearly thought of 
himself as engaged in a great epoch-making 
event, far transcending any mere rupture of 
the British Empire or the establishment of an 
independent state. This is how he thinks of 
the meaning of the Revolution : 

The form of government which you admire when 
its principles are pure is admirable; indeed, it is pro- 
ductive of everything which is great and excellent 
among men. But its principles are as easily destroyed 
as human nature is corrupted. Such a government is 
only to be supported by pure religion or austere morals. 
Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, 
and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. 
There must be a positive passion for the public good, 
the public interest, honor, power, and glory established 
in the minds of the people, or there can be no repub- 
lican government, or any real liberty, and this public 
passion must be superior to all private passions. . . . 


... Is there in the world a nation which deserves 
this character? There have been several, but they are 
no more. Our dear Americans perhaps have as much 
of it as any nation now existing, and New England 
perhaps has more than the rest of America. But I 
have seen all along my life such selfishness and little- 
ness even in New England that I sometimes tremble to 
think that, although we are engaged in the best cause 
that ever employed the human heart, yet the prospect 
of success is doubtful not for want of power or of 
wisdom, but of virtue. 

In no unreal sense John Adams and his as- 
sociates thought of themselves as undertaking 
something new in the history of the world; 
they were undertaking the novel experiment 
of founding that ideal community, a republic 
founded upon virtue and devoted to the re- 
generation of the human race. 


It is thus clear that the American Revolu- 
tion was a twofold movement : it was a move- 
ment for the separation from Great Britain; 
it was also a movement for the abolition of 
class privilege, for the democratization of 
American politics and society, in some measure 
for the inauguration of an ideal state. The 
Declaration of Independence reflects and ex- 
presses this twofold character of the Revolu- 
tion. On the one hand it is a declaration of 


the reasons which justified the separation 
from Great Britain; on the other hand it is a 
charter of democracy, a charter which ex- 
presses in classic form the universal rights of 

The Declaration of Independence is a short 
document, which may be printed in four small 
pages ; and the larger part of it is devoted to 
the specific grievances against the King of 
Great Britain. The Parliament is not men- 
tioned because the revolutionists had ac- 
cepted, at that time, a novel theory of the 
Empire — the theory that the Colonies had 
never been subject to the Parliament, but 
only to the king. And so the Declaration, 
affirming that "the history of the present 
King of Great Britain is a history of repeated 
injuries and usurpations, all having in direct 
object the establishment of an absolute Tyr- 
anny over these States," proceeds to enumer- 
ate a long list of such injuries and usurpa- 
tions, all of which have to do with specific 
acts : laying taxes on the Colonies or designed 
to limit or destroy the legislative indepen- 
dence of the colonial governments. This part 
of the Declaration is now rarely read and never 
remembered ; and rightly so, for these specific 
acts charged against George III, and once so 
vital, are now dead issues. 

But there is another part of the Declara- 

tion — a short ten lines of print — which every- 
one thinks of when the Declaration is men- 
tioned, and which is the only part of that 
famous document which most people have 
ever kept in mind. This part of the Declara- 
tion, the most significant and the most fa- 
mous part, is as follows : 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all 
men are created equal, and that they are endowed by 
their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that 
among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of 
Happiness. That to secure these rights Governments 
are instituted among men, deriving their just powers 
from the consent of the governed, that whenever any 
Form of Government becomes destructive of these 
ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish 
it, and to institute new Government, laying its founda- 
tions on such principles and organizing its powers in 
such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect 
their Safety and Happiness. 

On first thought it may appear strange that 
the part of the Declaration of Independence 
which is most famous and best remembered 
is precisely the part which fs least directly 
concerned with the grievances which led the 
Colonies to declare independence. But the 
reason for this is simple. It is that the specific 
grievances of the Colonies concern the world 
but little, while the principles upon which 
just government rests are of universal in- 


terest. The few phrases which make the 
Declaration famous deal not with the rights 
of Americans or Englishmen only, but with 
the rights of man ; and in so far as the prin- 
ciples which they proclaim are valid, they 
are valid for Frenchmen, or Russians, or 
Chinese no less than for Americans and 
Englishmen. This is why these phrases still 
live, and this is why the American Revolu- 
tion has a universal and permanent as well 
as a local and temporary importance. This 
universal significance is that for the first time 
in the modern world a new and potentially 
powerful nation was "dedicated to the prop- 
osition that all men are created equal," and 
founded upon the principle that the legitimacy 
of any government rests upon the will of the 
people instead of the will of God or of the 
State. And for a hundred years the example 
of the United States has been one of the strong- 
est supports of this new faith which, however 
often forgotten or betrayed, is now accepted 
by the better part of the world. 

When the Revolutionary War began few 
people in Europe supposed that the Colonies 
could win their independence. If they had 
been entirely united their chances would have 
been better. But the fact is that at least 
one-third of the people (this is the estimate 
of John Adams) were indifferent or actively 


opposed to the American cause. These were 
the Loyalists — Americans who remained loyal 
to Great Britain. They were not only nu- 
merous, but they included many of the ablest 
and most influential men in the Colonies, 
being largely recruited from the upper classes 
— landowners, merchants, clergymen, and offi- 
cials, who had hitherto constituted the govern- 
ing class, and who opposed the Revolution 
quite as much because of their fear of democ- 
racy as on account of any strong attachment 
to Great Britain. This division within their 
own ranks greatly weakened the colonists 
and gave to the struggle something of the 
character of a civil war. 

But besides this class division, which ap- 
peared in every colony, the chances of suc- 
cess were immensely lessened by the per- 
sistence and even the accentuation of the 
old rivalries between the different colonies. 
"There ought to be no New England man, 
no New-Yorker, known on the continent, but 
all of us Americans." So Christopher Gadsden 
wrote at the time of the Stamp Act Congress 
in 1765. It was a noble ideal of which most 
men no doubt vaguely felt the force; but 
neither New England men nor New-Yorkers 
nor South-Carolinians could be wholly trans- 
formed overnight. It took a hundred years 
to effect this transformation; and the student 


of the Revolution is sometimes amused, but 
more often amazed and disheartened, by the 
petty jealousies, the personal animosities, the 
hopeless provincialism, and the sordid cor- 
ruption which everywhere prevailed and which 
but gave an added luster to the fame of those 
outstanding Americans, such as Washington 
and John Adams and Franklin, without whose 
services the Revolution must have completely 

Of these three illustrious leaders the name 
of Washington stands out as a symbol of all 
that is heroic and admirable in the annals of 
his country. He was a Virginia planter, ac- 
counted the wealthiest man in the Colonies, 
whose life had been chiefly given to managing, 
with the most scrupulous care and with the 
highest efficiency, the estate which lay on 
the south bank of the Potomac at Mount 
Vernon. Scarcely a politician, he was yet a 
man of broad vision, who foresaw a great 
future for his country and was actively in- 
terested in the development of the great west 
that lay beyond the Alleghanies. Such mili- 
tary experience as he possessed had been 
gained in the French and Indian War; and 
particularly in the famous Braddock Expedi- 
tion he had revealed a knowledge of frontier 
Indian fighting which the British general did 
not possess and declined to take advantage of, 

5 55 

and in this disastrous retreat he had exhibited 
a courage and a resourcefulness which had 
won him the respect of the British and the 
confidence of his countrymen. 

It was on June 17, 1775, that this Virginia 
colonel was appointed to be "General and 
Commander-in-Chief of the armies of the 
United Colonies. " It was a high-sounding 
title for the leader of the nondescript collection 
of soldiers who fought the Revolutionary War; 
but no man who ever undertook a great task 
was better fitted for its manifold duties. For 
the exhibition of brilliant military geni»>* 
there were during the eight years of war but 
few opportunities; but for patience and reso- 
lution, for sound, practical judgment, re- 
sourcefulness, for ability to make the most of 
an untoward situation or a hopeless defeat, 
for the spirit that could inspire soldiers and 
civilians with loyalty to a cause which always 
seemed irretrievably lost — for all these quali- 
ties the American War of Independence fur- 
nished a test which only a great soul could 
have met with success. 

It was the merit of Washington that he 
possessed these qualities, each in perfection, 
and all in the happiest combination. He was 
the man of staid mind and impregnable char- 
acter who gathered all the scattered and dis- 
cordant forces of the Revolution and directed 


them to the achievement of the great en 
so modest that he thought himself incomp 
tent to the task, yet of such heroic resolutic 
that neither difficulties nor reverses nor bt 
trayals could bring him to despair; a man ot 
rectitude, whose will was steeled to finer 
temper by every defeat, and who was not to 
be turned, by any failure or success, by cal- 
umny, by gold, or by the dream of empire, 
from the straight path of his purpose. At the 
end of eight years of unremitting labor, which 
depleted his fortune and for which he asked 
no more than the payment of his personal 
expenses, that purpose was at last achieved. 

No man was ever more rightly called the 
father of his country; but even the indomi- 
table resolution of Washington, supported by 
the dogged persistence and garrulous common 
sense of John Adams and the suppleness and 
resource of Franklin's intelligence — even these 
would not have sufficed to win independence. 
It was America's good fortune that in this 
decisive hour of her history France came to 
stand by her side. Without the aid of France, 
the men who signed the Declaration of In- 
dependence would have pledged their lives, 
their fortunes, and their sacred honor in vain, 
and would have been known to history as 
rebels against rightful authority instead of 
defenders of human liberty. 


The influences that brought France to 
stand with America bear a curiously apt rela- 
tion to these two characteristic phases of the 
Revolution that have been mentioned. No 
one could have had less sympathy with re- 
bellious subjects proclaiming the doctrine of 
popular sovereignty than Louis XVI, the chief 
exemplar of autocracy in Europe ; but no one 
could regard with greater satisfaction the dis- 
ruption of the British Empire. For a hundred 
years England and France had struggled in 
peace and in war, on land and on the sea, for 
the possession of the New World as the basis 
of maritime and commercial supremacy. And 
England had won. In every stage England 
had won; and never so completely as in the 
last war. The Peace of Paris of 1763, by which 
France had been expelled from America and 
India, was the profoundest humiliation which 
France had suffered, and the memory of it 
still rankled. 

Inevitably, therefore, as a matter of prac- 
tical politics, the French government sought 
to redress the balance of power in Europe 
and the world by diminishing the power of 
Great Britain. The persistent promoter of 
this policy was the Foreign Minister, Ver- 
gennes, who watched with delight the grow- 
ing dispute between the mother country and 
the American provinces, and who labored 

58 ' 

from the outbreak of hostilities to bring France 
into alliance with the revolting Colonies. 
Early in the war, through a fictitious business 
firm organized by the playwright, Beaumar- 
chais, the government furnished two hundred 
thousand dollars' worth of supplies and mili- 
tary stores; after the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence Vergennes arranged with Franklin 
for a regular subsidy of two hundred thousand 
dollars a year; and finally, after the great 
victory of the colonial troops at Saratoga, 
an open military and commercial treaty was 
signed between the United States of America, 
recently founded upon the revolutionary prin- 
ciple of popular sovereignty, and his Most 
Christian Majesty, Louis XVI, by Grace of 
God King of France and Navarre. 

So far as the French government was con- 
cerned the alliance between the two coun- 
tries was inspired by the desire to disrupt 
the British Empire and thereby increase the 
power of France. But the Franco-American 
alliance was something more than a diplomatic 
entente. The alliance was welcomed in France 
with immense popular enthusiasm; and this 
enthusiasm was inspired, not by hatred of 
England (never were the English more ad- 
mired in France than at this time), but by a 
profound sympathy with the ideals of liberty 
and human welfare upon which the Revolu- 


tion was based and which found classic ex- 
pression in the famous Declaration of In- 
dependence. Within half a century a new 
spirit had arisen in France. A generation of 
brilliant writers, of whom Voltaire, Montes- 
quieu, and Rousseau were the leaders, had 
transformed the thinking and the aspirations 
of the French people. By trenchant criticism 
and corrosive satire and passionate denunci- 
ation of corruption, hypocrisy, and injus- 
tice, they destroyed the moral foundations of 
the monarchy and the Church and prepared 
the way for that great Revolution which 
was destined to transform the old European 

Thus it happened that in 1776 the French, 
like the Americans, were dreaming of a new 
era. They had caught the vision of a regener- 
ated society — a society in which enlightenment 
would banish ignorance and vice, in which 
selfishness and brutality would give way to a 
kindly fraternity, in which the generous and 
humane instincts of the natural man would 
find expression in law and customs designed 
to establish and perpetuate the general wel- 
fare. And so it was that in this soft spring- 
time of the modern world forward-looking 
men observed with profound interest the birth 
of a new nation on the western continent. 
Repelled by the corrupt and artificial life of 


Europe, everywhere encumbered with the de- 
bris of worn-out institutions, they turned to 
America as a kind of concrete example of their 
imagined state of nature. Their very igno- 
rance of America enabled them to confer upon 
it more virtues than it in fact possessed. In 
contrast with Europe, so oppressed with de- 
fenseless tyrannies and useless inequalities, 
how superior seemed this new land of promise 
where every citizen was a free man, where 
the necessities of life were the sure reward 
of industry, where manners were simple, where 
vice and crime had almost disappeared, and 
where native incapacity was the only effective 
barrier to ambition! 

When Benjamin Franklin arrived in France 
in 1776 he was therefore something more than 
the official representive of the Congress of the 
United States. To the French mind he was 
the incarnation of the qualities which a state 
founded on reason and nature would tend to 
develop in all men. This man who had begun 
life as a printer's boy and was now the chosen 
representative of his country on a difficult 
mission, this self-educated philosopher whose 
discoveries were known to every savant in 
Europe, this Friend of the Human Race who 
had "wrested lightning from Heaven and the 
scepter from the Tyrant's hand" — this man 
was, after all, no more than one of nature's 


noblemen, such as free institutions might be 
expected to produce. 

And in some ways Franklin was better than 
his reputation. The suppleness of his plastic 
mind enabled him to take on without effort 
the external qualities of the French tempera- 
ment, while retaining the homely wit and wis- 
dom and the serene and imperturbable geni- 
ality which was his native character. The 
result was that never before nor since has any 
man in a foreign country received such con- 
tinued applause or been the object of such uni- 
versal affection as fell to Franklin in France. 
John Adams, who liked the French none too 
well and who might have felt the jealousy of 
a less successful rival, said of Franklin : 

His reputation was more universal than that of 
Leibnitz or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire; and his 
character more beloved and esteemed than any or 
all of them. . . . His name was familiar to government 
and people, to kings, courtiers, nobility, clergy, and 
philosophers, as well as plebeians, to such a degree that 
there was scarcely a peasant or a citizen, a valet de 
chambre, a coachman or footman, a lady's chamber- 
maid or a scullion in a kitchen, who was not familiar 
with it, and who did not consider him as a friend of 
humankind. When they spoke of him, they seemed to 
think he was to restore the Golden Age. 

The Golden Age! This phrase gives us 
indeed the secret of Franklin's popularity. 


He was in French eyes the beau-ideal of the 
natural philosopher, the incarnation of all 
those amiable and excellent qualities which 
were potential in the nature of men, and which 
would be developed in all men when institu- 
tions were made to conform to reason and 
justice. The enthusiasm of the French people 
for America and for Franklin was but the 
measure of their passionate desire for the re- 
generation of France, a symbol of the com- 
munity of hopes and ideals which bound the 
two countries together. 



WHEN the United States of America as- 
sumed her place among the independent 
nations of the earth, the regeneration of the 
human race was far from an accomplished 
fact. Europeans were prepared to regard the 
event as a forecast of a new era in human 
history; but it would have been an optimist 
indeed who could have seen in even the most 
favored of the thirteen little states that com- 
posed the new nation that ideal republic, 
founded upon virtue and assuring the reign 
of felicity, which John Adams in his generous 
moments had professed to believe in. On the 
contrary, the country was exhausted and de- 
moralized. The poverty and destitution which 
everywhere prevailed among the mass of the 
people was only thrown into stronger relief 
by the prosperity of those who had somehow 
managed to preserve their estates, or of those 
newly rich whose swollen fortunes were the 


reward of shameless profiteering. The sense 
of public probity had been immensely weak- 
ened by the unrestrained lawlessness of many 
years as well as by the unlimited issue of 
government obligations that were scarcely 
worth the paper they were printed on. Re- 
spect for law had been half destroyed by the 
feebleness of governments which, under the 
stress of civil war, had fallen to the level of 
imbecility. For many years after the treaty of 
1 783 there was no question of an ideal state or of 
the regeneration of the human race ; the ques- 
tion was of any tolerable state, of any stable 
government. The ideal republic might come, it 
might conceivably come in America; but the 
immediate task which confronted the United 
States was to demonstrate to the world's satis- 
faction that any republic could endure for a 


Probably no people indeed has ever been 
more constantly preoccupied with the ques- 
tion of the proper form of government than 
the people of the United States. The question 
of government was one of the questions that 
drove men out of Europe into America in the 
seventeenth century. The colonial assemblies 
were perpetually quarreling with the governor 
over their respective powers. The Revolution 


turned upon a question of government; and 
throughout the Revolutionary War and for 
some years after, one chief occupation of the 
people was the manufacture of constitutions. 
Having finally adopted a federal constitution 
in 1787, the people and their leaders began to 
discuss the question of how it ought to be in- 
terpreted. They adopted the constitution 
first and then tried to find out what it meant, 
but never could agree, and at last had to fight 
a desperate civil war to determine the matter. 
Nevertheless, these constant wrangles about 
the form of the government, at least since the 
Revolution, have not, for the most part, had 
to do with fundamental questions. The French 
people have in the nineteenth century dis- 
cussed the question of government as much 
as Americans have; but in France the dispute 
has involved fundamental issues, such as the 
question of whether a divine-right monarchy 
or a democratic republic is better. Such a dis- 
pute never has nor ever could exist in America ; 
and this is a fact of fundamental importance 
for an understanding of American history and 
institutions- —namely, that in all of our his- 
tory few people have ever seriously pro- 
posed that a divine-right monarchy or any 
other kind of monarchy should be established. 
The only king which Americans were ever 
willing to recognize, even in colonial days, was 


a king who was too far away to have any 
power over them. The most deep-rooted 
political instinct which Americans have, an 
instinct which determines all their thinking, 
is the feeling that they can and will, as a mat- 
ter of course, govern themselves. This idea is 
so fixed and so universally held that if any one 
should suggest any kind of government other 
than self-government as proper for Ameri- 
cans the proposal would be taken as a species 
of joke. The traditions of monarchy and 
Church and nobility, which are such powerful 
influences in Europe because they are so inter- 
woven in all European history — these tradi- 
tions simply do not exist in the United States. 
Not only have Americans always been vio- 
lently opposed to monarchical government, 
they have always been opposed to a highly 
centralized government, exercising its au- 
thority from a great distance and through 
officials unknown in the community where 
they act. In America the burden of proof 
commonly rests on the government. The 
American, therefore, likes to have a govern- 
ment that is limited as much as possible, 
that is nicely checked and balanced; and for 
this reason he likes to have a government that 
is close at hand, where it can be carefully 
watched and kept in its proper place. From 
the beginning of American history the people 


have accordingly been disposed to retain as 
much local government as possible, and have 
surrendered only gradually and under pres- 
sure any powers to the central government, 
whether state or national. 

Such an attitude toward government is 
likely to be developed in any new country 
where people have to depend upon themselves 
and where individual initiative is at a pre- 
mium; but the trait was already ingrained 
in the first settlers. America was settled, in 
large part, by people who left Europe in order 
to free themselves from the oppression of 
monarchy and Church. Separatists, Puri- 
tans, Nonconformists, Quakers, Scotch-Irish 
Presbyterians, Mennonites, Dunkers — these 
names are associated with those Europeans 
who were so eccentric in their views that they 
could not live comfortably at home. They 
were opposed to monarchy, opposed to heredi- 
tary nobility, opposed to bishops, opposed to 
May-poles, opposed to lawn sleeves, opposed to 
almost all the prevailing ideas and customs. 
Being temperamentally cantankerous, people 
with whom it went against the grain to submit 
to outward constraint, they were disposed to 
look within for some "inner light" or "scru- 
ple of conscience" which might serve as a 
guide to action. And so, in order to be free 

from the outward constraint of king or priest 


or social custom, they came to America where 
there was room for all and no one to care what 
they thought or how they worshiped or 
whether they had much or little government. 
Inevitably such eccentric people founded 
small and dispersed communities. The Pil- 
grims, asserting that it belongeth not to the 
magistrate "to compel religion, to plant 
churches by power, and to force submission 
to Ecclesiastical Government by laws and 
penalties," first went to Holland ; but when 
they could not be sufficiently "separated" 
there, they lifted up "their eyes to the 
heavens, their dearest country, and quieted 
their spirits." They also quieted their spirits 
by coming to the bleak New England coast and 
settling at Plymouth, a tiny little community 
that maintained its separate government for 
seventy-one years. They preferred not to 
unite with the Puritans who settled Massa- 
chusetts Bay, although the difference between 
the Puritans and the Separatists seems to the 
modern mind very slight. The Puritans them- 
selves were no sooner established at Boston 
than they began to quarrel over the precise 
nature of that "due form of government both 
civil and ecclesiastical" which they came to 
America to establish ; and some of them, being 
expelled, went off with Roger Williams to found 
another tiny commonwealth at Providence 


(Rhode Island), while others followed Thomas 
Hooker into a new wilderness and founded 
the colony of Connecticut. Still another group 
of Puritans, coming from London to Boston, 
but not finding the due form of government 
precisely right in every detail, went on to New 
Haven and founded there a Bible common- 
wealth that suited them. In origin and in 
their ideas of religion and government, all 
of these people were very much alike. Had 
they chosen to live together under one state, 
that state, seventy years after the first settle- 
ment, would have had a population of less 
than eighty thousand. But in spite of the 
extreme hardships of the wilderness, in spite 
of the danger from the Indians, these eighty 
thousand eccentrics could not possibly sub- 
ordinate themselves to a single government. 
They preferred to live separated, according 
to the "strong bent of their spirits," in five 
distinct and independent states, each one an 
ideal commonwealth. 

During a century and a half of colonial 
history the jealousy of local liberties and the 
practice of local government became firmly 
established, and each colony as a matter of 
course managed its own affairs in complete 
independence of every other colony. The 
only bond of union between the colonies was 
the British government, and the people of 


the various colonies had usually but little 
intercourse with one another. When John 
Adams went to Philadelphia in 1774 to attend 
the first Continental Congress, he had never 
before been outside of New England. He 
entered New York with the same interested 
curiosity with which an American now goes 
for the first time to London; and he noted 
in his Diary, as the European tourist might 
do, his impressions of the people, of their 
dress and manners, of how their political in- 
stitutions differed from those of New England, 
and commented upon the several kinds of 
food which he had for breakfast at the country 
seat of Mr. John Morin Scott. 

This provincial point of view was not radi- 
cally changed by the Revolution; and when 
independence was declared each colony re- 
garded itself as an independent and sovereign 
state. It is true that independence was de- 
clared by the Continental Congress, but it 
was an associated declaration of the thirteen 
states. No colony was bound by the act of 
Congress until it gave its adherence to that 
act; and, in fact, the colony of New York 
did not vote for independence until July 9th, 
seven days after the resolution was voted in 

The resolution by which Congress voted in 

favor of independence included a recom- 
6 71 

mendation to the effect that each state should 
proceed forthwith to form a new state govern- 
ment; and in fact each state, assuming full 
sovereign rights, established a government to 
suit itself. The Revolution thus created thir- 
teen independent states, each with its own 
constitution and its own government; and 
this system of state governments became and 
has remained to this day the foundation of 
the United States and of its political system. 
The original state governments were modeled 
upon the old colonial governments (the col- 
onies of Connecticut and Rhode Island in- 
deed retained for many years their old colonial 
charters as constitutions), and the structure 
of these governments, in its essential features, 
was much the same in all the states. There 
were the county or town officials for purely 
local affairs ; there were the elected assemblies, 
in most cases of two houses, for the making 
of state laws; and there were the governors, 
elected directly by the people (except in New 
York), to whom were intrusted the adminis- 
trative and executive functions. There are 
now forty-eight states in the Union. Each 
one has a written constitution, in accordance 
with which its government is organized; and 
although in the course of time the trend 
toward a greater degree of democracy has 
brought about many modifications in detail, 


the structural features of municipal, county, 
and state governments remain what they were 
at the close of the eighteenth century. 

It was upon this foundation that the United 
States government was erected. While the 
sovereignty of the states was the accepted 
idea at the close of the Revolution, every 
one felt that the people of the Colonies were 
in some measure a common people with a 
common destiny, and that, as they had united 
for defending their rights and the winning of 
independence, so they must continue to act to- 
gether in their dealings with the outside world. 
In other words, it was agreed that the thir- 
teen independent states ought to unite in a 
federation. This union had been achieved 
during the war by means of the Continental 
Congress; but the Continental Congress was 
only a temporary body with no specifically 
determined powers — an assembly of deputies 
acting only upon instruction from their own 
governments, its authority limited to recom- 
mendations, and its influence such as the 
prestige of its members or the exigencies of 
war might give to it. To take the place of 
the Continental Congress, the states finally 
adopted, after much wrangling, the Articles 
of Confederation. 

The Articles of Confederation created a 
federal government without any effective 


power. The states were as Jealous of their 
sovereign rights then as states are now; and 
the creation of a strong federal government 
was contemplated with the same hesitancy 
with which the states of Europe now contem- 
plate the creation of a strong League of Na- 
tions. It was somehow imagined that an 
effective United States could be formed with- 
out depriving the individual states of any 
sovereign rights. The Articles of Confedera- 
tion made no provision for a federal executive, 
and upon the federal Congress which was 
created they conferred nothing more than the 
right of recommending laws which the separate 
states were expected to enforce, but which 
in fact they enforced or not, as they saw fit. 
Such a federal union proved a complete failure. 
A government which could negotiate treaties, 
but could not execute them ; which could levy 
taxes, but could not collect them, merited 
and received the contempt of every one both 
at home and abroad. Within a few years it 
was found that in order to avert the dissolu- 
tion of the confederation, as well as to protect 
the common interests of the states against 
foreign aggression, a more perfect union would 
have to be formed. This more perfect union 
was achieved by the adoption of the Constitu- 
tion of 1787, which went into effect in 1789 and 
has remained in force until the present time. 



The Constitution of 1787 was declared by 
Mr. Gladstone to be the "grandest work ever 
struck off by the hand of man at a given 11016." 
The men who made it would not have claimed 
so much for their handiwork. The Constitu- 
tion was a compromise between many diver- 
gent interests, and the result was that almost 
no one was very well satisfied with it. Some 
thought it created a government which was 
too weak to be effective, and some thought 
it created a government so strong as to be 
dangerous. James Madison defended the 
Constitution by saying that under all the cir- 
cumstances "Ji was the best we could do." At 
the time, this was thought to reveal an opti- 
mistic attitude of mind; but most people 
could at least take refuge in the thought 
that things might turn out better than was 

If it could have been foreseen how much 
power the federal government would be able 
to assume, the Constitution would have been 
rejected by a great majority of the people; 
for the states were still unwilling to surrender 
the principle of sovereignty. In the new 
Constitution, therefore, no more power was 
conferred upon the federal government than 
was thought to be absolutely necessary; and 


hence the fundamental legal principle which 
governs the distribution of the power between 
the federal and the state governments, re- 
spectively, is this: The states were intended 
to have all powers not conferred by the Con- 
stitution upon the federal government, or not 
denied by the Constitution to the states. That 
there might be no doubt about the matter, this 
principle was formulated and adopted as the 
Tenth Amendment to the Constitution in the 
following terms: "The powers not delegated 
to the United States by the Constitution, nor 
prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to 
the States respectively, or to the people!" If 
this principle is once thoroughly understood 
the distribution of powers in the American 
political system, which sometimes seem so 
complex to foreigners, will present no great 
difficulty. There are the state governments, 
each having jurisdiction within its own terri- 
tory, and there is the federal government at 
Washington having jurisdiction over the whole 
territory of the United States. The federal 
government exercises such powers only as are 
conferred upon it by the Constitution; while 
the state governments exercise all powers not 
denied to them or conferred upon the federal 

The federal government, upon which the 
Constitution conferred certain powers, is in 


its structure similar to the state governments. 
It is a government of three branches — execu- 
tive, legislative, and judicial — intended to be 
so nicely checked and balanced, in respect 
to the powers conferred upon each branch, 
that no one branch could usurp the powers 
conferred upon either of the others. The 
executive branch is intrusted to the President, 
originally elected by an electoral college, but 
now in fact elected directly by the people, 
for a term of four years. Aside from a limited 
right of vetoing laws passed by Congress, 
the chief function of the President is to " take 
care that the laws be faithfully executed." In 
order that he may do this, he is made the 
commander-in-chief of the army and navy, 
and is given the power to appoint ambassa- 
dors, judges of the Supreme Court, and all 
federal officers whose appointment is not 
otherwise provided for. In addition, the 
President negotiates all treaties with for- 
eign powers; but both the treaties negotiated 
and the appointments made by the Presi- 
dent become valid only when approved by 
the Senate. 

The legislative branch of the federal govern- 
ment consists of the Congress, composed of 
an upper house called the Senate, and a lower 
house called the House of Representatives. 
The Senate is composed of two members from 


each state, whether large or small, chosen 
originally by the state legislatures, but now 
in all states by the people, for a term of six 
years. The Senate was a concession to the 
small states, which wished to preserve their 
equality with the large states, so that even 
to-day a state like Rhode Island, with a popu- 
lation of about six hundred and fifty thousand, 
has equal weight in the Senate with a state 
like New York, with a population of over ten 
millions. But the Senate was also a conces- 
sion to those who feared the unchecked power 
of the people. Chosen by the state legislatures, 
for a long term of service, and made up pre- 
sumably of older men, the Senate was de- 
signed to prevent over-hasty action by the 
House of Representatives. 

The House of Representatives is composed 
of men chosen directly by the people for a 
term of two years. The number from each 
state is determined according to the popu- 
lation of the state, and in each state every 
one has a right to vote for members of the 
House of Representatives who has a right to 
vote for the members of the lower house of 
the legislature of that state. The House of 
Representatives was thus a concession to the 
large states; but it was also a concession to the 
principle of democracy. It was and is as 
democratic a body as the states respectively 


wish to make it. In two respects, indeed, 
the states have been deprived by the Consti- 
tution of their power to restrict the suffrage. 
The fifteenth amendment prohibits the states 
from denying the ballot to any person on 
account of race, color, or previous condition 
of servitude; the nineteenth amendment for- 
bids a similar restriction on account of sex. 

The third branch of the federal government 
is the judicial branch, "which is vested in one 
Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as 
Congress may from time to time ordain and 
establish." The Congress has in fact estab- 
lished a number of such inferior courts. At 
present (1927) the chief of these inferior 
courts are the District Courts and the Cir- 
cuit Courts of Appeal. There is at least 
one District Court in each state; but the 
large and the thickly populated states ordina- 
rily have more than one. Thus, for example, 
New York is divided into four districts and 
Texas into four. Altogether there are in the 
United States some eighty Federal judicial 
districts, there being in each district at least 
one district judge. The states are also 
grouped into nine divisions, called circuits; 
in each of these regional divisions there is 
a Circuit Court of Appeals, and there arc 
three or four circuit court of appeals judges 
for each of these appellate courts. The 


jurisdiction of the federal courts extends to "all 
cases . . . arising under the Constitution, the 
laws of the United States, and treaties made, 
or which shall be made, under their authority." 
Such is the form of the federal government 
upon which the Constitution expressly con- 
fers certain powers. Aside from the power 
of the President to negotiate treaties, the 
f powers which the Constitution confers upon 
the federal government are essentially all con- 
tained in Section VIII, which defines the legis- 
lative authority of the federal Congress. This 
section is of sufficient importance to quote 
at length: 

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect 
taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts 
and provide for the common defense and general wel- 
fare of the United States; but all duties, imposts, and 
excises shall be uniform throughout the United States. 

To borrow money on the credit of the United States. 

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, among 
the several States, and with the Indian Tribes. 

To establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and 
uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcy through- 
out the States. 

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of 
foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and 

To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the 
securities and current coin of the United States. 

To establish post offices and post roads. 

To promote the progress of science and the useful 

arts, by securing for limited times to authors and in- 
ventors the exclusive right to their respective writings 
and discoveries. 

To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme 

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed 
on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations. 

To declare war, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, 
to make rules concerning captures on land and water. 

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation 
of money to that use shall be for a longer term than 
two years. 

To provide and maintain a navy. 

To make rules and regulations for the government 
and regulation of the land and naval forces. 

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute 
the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection and repel 
invasion, . . . and 

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper 
for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all 
the other powers vested by this Constitution in the 
Government of the United States, or any department 
or officer thereof. 

Such are the powers expressly conferred 
upon the United States government by the 
Constitution. The powers expressly denied 
to the states are to make treaties with one 
another or with foreign states, to coin money 
or issue bills of credit, pass bills of attainder, 
ex post facto laws, or laws impairing the ob- 
ligation of a contract, to levy import or export 
duties, to keep ships of war in time of peace, 
or to grant titles of nobility. 


It was of course very easy to say that the 
Congress of the United States should pass 
only such and such laws. But suppose the 
Congress should not observe the limits set 
in the Constitution? Who would restrain it? 
It was easy to say that the states should not 
pass such and such laws — for example, a law 
impairing the obligation of a contract. But 
suppose some state should pass a law im- 
pairing the obligation of a contract? Who 
would restrain it? Where virtually sovereign 
powers are divided between two distinct gov- 
ernments, conflict is sure to arise. The dis- 
4 tribution of powers between the states and the 
federal government is an essential feature of 
the American federal system, and conflicts 
have often arisen between the states and the 
federal government in respect to their proper 
sphere of activities. Some method of de- 
termining these questions without resorting 
to war was therefore necessary. 

As a matter of fact, it fell to the Supreme 
Court to decide these disputed questions. If 
the Congress passes a law, or if any state legis- 
lature passes a law, in either case any one may 
refuse to obey the law; and if he is arrested 
in consequence and brought to trial, he may 
plead that the law in question is unconstitu- 
tional — that is, that the Congress or the state 
legislature is forbidden by the Constitution 


of the United States to pass such a law. Such 
a plea, if it is allowed, brings the case before 
a federal court, and may ultimately bring it 
before the Supreme Court, because the juris- 
diction of the federal court extends to "all 
cases arising under the Constitution of the 
United States"; and it then becomes the 
duty of the court, if the case cannot be de- 
cided on some other ground, to raise and to 
decide the question of the constitutionality of 
the law in question. Acting in this way, the 
Supreme Court has often declared laws of 
Congress null and void on the ground that 
the Congress has exceeded the powers given 
to it by the Constitution; and it has still 
more frequently declared state laws null and 
void on the ground that the state is exercising 
powers denied to it by the Constitution. Thus 
the Supreme Court is not only a strictly judi- 
cial body; it is also a kind of umpire or arbi- 
trator which sett4es disputes in respect to the 
respective powers of the federal and state 
governments. In settling such disputes, it 
often has to declare what is or is not law, and 
so it becomes in fact a lawmaking body as 
well as a law-interpreting body. 

Such in brief outline is the framework or 
structure of the American political system. 
It must be confessed that it is not simple. 
The principle for determining the distribution 


of power between the various governments 
may be clear enough, but the machinery itself 
is complicated, and there is a great deal of it. 
The number of elections to be held, of offices 
to be filled, of legislative bodies to be kept 
going, is something wonderful. Consider the 
lawmaking bodies alone! To say nothing of 
county and municipal governments through- 
out the Union, there is the Congress of the 
United States assembling every year, and 
forty-eight state legislatures assembling at 
least once in two years, to make more laws. 
A more extensive plant than we have in 
America for the manufacture of statutes does 
not exist on the earth. Every year thousands 
of new laws, state and national, are made — 
very soon forgotten, most of them, it is true, 
and most of them useless. But then most of 
them are harmless also, because most statutes 
become obsolete unless the people are inter- 
ested in their enforcement, since no one in 
America imagines that laws can have any 
force if they are not an expression of the 
public will. 


In America the enforcement of law as well 
as the making of law rests with the people; 
but the will of the people is not quite the same 
thing in both cases. Laws that are made are 

8 4 

the expression of the popular will in the sense 
that all statutes are formulated and passed, 
and all executive decrees are issued, by assem- 
blies elected by the people, or by officials ap- 
pointed by some one who is himself elected 
by the people. But who are the people? 
And do the legislative bodies and executive 
officials always represent -the wishes of the 
people ? 

The people, so far as the making of laws is 
concerned, have never been in America, or 
in any other country, composed of all the 
citizens. The right of voting for legislative 
bodies and officials has always been limited* 
to certain persons. Nor has this limited class 
of persons, this "electorate/' ever been able 
to express its will perfectly, or to get it per- 
fectly represented in government. No form 
of government works perfectly. Democratic 
government does not work perfectly; and 
democratic government in the United States 
is no exception to this rule. But the validity 
of the principle upon which the political system 
of the United States rests has in this country 
never been seriously questioned. When the 
American sees that his system of government 
works badly, he does not deny his faith and 
fall into despair. He says, cheerfully, "We 
must set this right ; we must have more laws ; 
we must amend the Constitution." The aver- 


age American never doubts that the remedy 
for democracy is more democracy. 

The whole history of the United States has 
been a process of trying to get more democ- 
racy. In 1789 every state restricted the right 
of voting more or less narrowly. At that time 
it was generally thought that to place the 
control of government unreservedly in the 
hands of even a minority of the people was 
to have a great deal of democracy. It was 
thought that only those who had property to 
protect would have a sufficiently intelligent 
interest in government to be intrusted with 
political power; only those who had a "stake 
in the country" ought to have a share in 
saying what was to be done with the country. 
As John Jay was fond of saying, "Those who 
own the country ought to govern it." 

But even at that time there were those 
who had more interest in men than they had 
in money, and more faith in the virtue of the 
people than they had in the virtue of wealth. 
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declara- 
tion of Independence, was one of those who 
never lost faith in the principles of that docu- 
ment ; and he became the leader of the Demo- 
cratic - Republican party, which forthwith 
raised the cry of "aristocracy" and "oli- 
garchy" against the Federalist party, which 

was supported mainly by the wealthy and edu- 


cated classes. But although Jefferson and his 
party came into power in 1801, it was not until 
the period of 1820-30, when the more demo- 
cratic frontier states of the Middle West began 
to exercise a determining influence upon the 
political history of the United States, that the 
old restrictions on the suffrage began to be 
abolished. This great democratic movement 
culminated in the election of Andrew Jackson 
(1828-37) as President. A frontier Indian- 
fighter, "Old Hickory" was a man of the 
people with a profound faith in the worth, the 
integrity, and the sound sense of the average 
man. From this period universal manhood 
suffrage became the general practice in the 
United States, and political control passed in 
considerable measure from the cultured and 
educated classes to the mass of the people. 

But universal manhood suffrage brought 
its evils and its problems. As the electorate 
became larger, the nomination of candidates 
for office was taken out of the hands of 
prominent officials and placed in the hands of 
mass-meetings, which in turn developed into 
"nominating conventions" made of delegates 
elected by the members of the party con- 
cerned. The nomination convention offered 
an excellent opportunity for the professional 
politician to construct a closely integrated* 
"political machine," which manipulated the 

7 87 

nomination of candidates and controlled the 
party through the spoils of office and through 
the relations it might establish with business 
or other "interests" seeking protection or ad- 
vantage. It thus came about that the hon- 
est voter had usually only a choice between 
two candidates, which was often a choice be- 
tween two evils. Each candidate was nomi- 
nated in a more or less secret and devious way, 
so that whichever candidate was elected to 
office was likely to have "obligations" to 
those who had procured his nomination and 
his election. These "obligations" were not 
so much to the people as to individuals or 
groups of individuals who had axes of their 
own to grind. 

This system of corrupt "machine politics" 
at last became so perfect in its kind that 
even the easy-going Americans could not 
tolerate it, and in recent years the nominating 
convention has been rapidly modified or abol- 
ished altogether. Many states now have what 
are called "primary elections" — that is, elec- 
tions within each party, or without regard to 
party, for the purpose of nominating candi- 
dates to stand for the final election. By this 
system all voters, or at least all voters who 
are registered as members of a recognized 
party, may take part in nominating the candi- 
dates who are to be finally voted for. To some 


extent this has diminished the influence of the 
professional politician by enabling the rank and 
file to choose men for office who will be more 
free to carry out their wishes. 

But it is of course still possible that the 
elected representatives may not carry out the 
wishes of the people. Municipal councilors, 
state assemblymen, members of the House of 
Representatives, even United States Sena- 
tors, are not demigods, but more or less * 
ordinary human beings. They have their 
political careers to consider, often place loyalty 
to party above loyalty to ideas even if they 
have any, or to the welfare of the people even 
if by chance they know what it is. Conscious- 
ly or not, they are often the instruments of 
malign influences — selfish or corrupt or vicious 
organizations that prey upon society and ex- 
ploit the people. Thus it happens that the 
laws passed by the representatives of the 
people, even when these representatives are 
men whom the people choose willingly, are 
often not such as the people desire. 

To correct this evil by bringing the action * 
of elected representatives more directly under v 
popular control even during their terms of 
office, there has been under way for many 
years a movement which is symbolized by 
the letters I. R. R. — the Initiative, the Refer- 
endum, and the Recall. The Initiative (which 


it at least as old as the French Revolution) is 
a scheme which permits a certain proportion 
of the voters to initiate legislation — that is, 
to formulate and propose bills which the 
legislature must consider and vote upon. The 
Referendum is a scheme which requires cer- 
tain bills or laws passed by the legislature to 
be referred to the voters for approval or re- 
jection. The Recall is a method of permitting 
the voters to "recall" — that is, to remove 
from office — an elected official before the term 
of his office expires, in case he acts contrary 
to their wishes. These methods, which have 
been adopted to a greater or less extent in a 
few of the states, are all designed to give 
to the people a more direct and a more effec- 
tive control of legislation, and of the con- 
duct of elected representatives. Their effect 
is in some measure to transform elected 
officials from representatives to agents of the 

Meantime, the trend toward a greater de- 
gree of democracy has taken the form of an 
extension of the suffrage. Many people have 
always regarded women as reasonably honest 
and intelligent — at least, as much so as men; 
and for a long time these people have been 
asking a very embarrassing question. If it is 
true, they say, that "all just government rests 
upon the consent of the governed," why should 


women, who have as well as men to submit to 
government, not be allowed to consent to it 
also. No convincing reason for not allowing 
women to vote has ever been advanced which 
would not apply equally well to men. But it 
takes a great deal of reason to overcome the 
force of a little inertia ; and it is only in recent 
years, when the economic and intellectual 
emancipation of women has somewhat broken 
down the solidarity of the family, that the 
political emancipation of women has made 
much headway. At the present time women 
have full or partial rights of voting in about 
thirty states. 1 Above all, the Great War, with 
the stimulation of democratic ideals which has 
come out of it, has. given a great impetus to 
the woman's suffrage movement in this coun- 
try. There is now a joint resolution before 
the Congress of the United States proposing 
an amendment to the Constitution which, if 
adopted, will give to women throughout the 
United States the same rights of voting as 
men. The resolution has been passed by the 
House of Representatives, and, although re- 
cently rejected by the Senate, there seems 
little doubt that it will ultimately be carried 
into effect. If this should come to pass, 2 the 
political system of the United States, so far 
as the right of the people to share in the 

1 April, 1925. * Since adopted as the XIX amendment. 


election of those who exercise governmental 
power is concerned, will be as democratic as 
it could well be. 

Americans do not as a rule follow closely 
the work of their various legislatures, or take 
much interest in the great majority of the 
laws they make. In a single session of almost 
any state legislature a thousand or more bills 
are introduced. Most of these are happily 
never enacted into law; but very few people 
indeed ever hear of the majority of those that 
are enacted into law. Only in those laws 
which are the result of wide-spread interest 
and of much discussion in the newspapers do 
the people take any interest ; and on the other 
hand, aside from a few very special laws, those 
laws in which the people are not interested 
cannot long be enforced. In other words, the 
right to vote for representatives is only one 
method of expressing the popular will; a less 
tangible but a much more effective way is 
through the force of public opinion. Public 
opinion, when it is once definitely crystallized, 
can easily force legislatures to make the laws 
that are desired, and it can with equal ease 
compel officials to enforce or to ignore any 
law after it has once been made. In the 


United States there is no power that can long 
resist a consolidated public opinion. 

But what is public opinion? There are of 
course many public opinions. Wherever you 
have a group of people who think alike in 
respect to any matter, there you have, for 
that group and in respect to that matter, a 
public opinion. In respect to many things, 
there is a public opinion of the village which 
is different from the public opinion of the city, 
a public opinion of the city which is different 
from the public opinion of the state, a public 
opinion of the state which is different from 
the public opinion of the nation. Again, in 
any territorial area, public opinion may differ 
from class to class and from group to group. 
There is what may be called the public opinion 
of the Democrats as opposed (it must be op- 
posed) to that of the Republicans, the public 
opinion of the laboring class as opposed to the 
public opinion of the capitalists, the public 
opinion of the Brewers' Association as op- 
posed to the public opinion of the Women's 
Christian Temperance Union. 

Over large areas these various group opin- 
ions often neutralize one another so effectively 
that the practical result is nil; and it is ob- 
vious that the larger the area and the more 
diverse the groups concerned the more difficult 
it is ever to get a thoroughly consolidated 


public opinion in essential questions of politics 
and society. This difficulty depends not only 
upon the size of the territory concerned, but 
also upon the extent to which there is present 
vital differences in respect to race, cultural 
habit, or economic conditions. Kansas is 
almost entirely an agricultural state in which 
there are not many very poor or very rich 
people, no large cities, and few foreign-born 
citizens. It is therefore much easier for the 
people of Kansas to agree in respect to most 
questions of politics than it is for the people 
of New York State to agree in respect to simi- 
lar questions. For example, there is a con- 
solidated public opinion in Kansas, and has 
been for a long time, on the subject of pro- 
hibition; there is no such consolidated public 
opinion on this subject in the state of New 
York, where there is so little uniformity in re- 
spect to the racial origins of the people and in 
the economic conditions under which they live. 
It is obvious, therefore, that the larger a 
country is, and the more deep-seated the dif- 
ferences are between section and section, or 
between the different groups and classes, the 
more difficult it will be to have a consolidated 
public opinion on most questions of im- 
portance. Now the United States is a very 
large country, with well-marked geographical 
areas differing in climate, soil, economic con- 


editions, and in the characteristics of the people. 
The Alleghany and the Rocky Mountain 
ranges divide the country into the East and 
the Middle West and the Far West ; climate 
and historical memories combine to differenti- 
ate the North from the South. The people of 
the United States are of cosmopolitan origin. 
For a century a constant stream of foreign 
immigrants has been pouring into the country, 
and to-day about one-third of the people are, 
at least on one side, of foreign-born parentage. 
To-day it is very difficult to say what is a 
"typical" American name or a "typical" 
American face. One is reminded of the story 
of the corporal who at first had difficulty in 
calling the roll of his company, on account of 
the great number of strange Polish and Italian 
names; but at last he came to the name of 
O'Shaughnessey, and was heard to mutter 
under his breath, "Thank God for one of those 
good old American names." Almost any name 
is now a good American name. But besides its 
geographical and racial diversity, America is 
rapidly becoming an industrialized country, 
wealth is being rapidly concentrated in the 
hands of the few, and as a result there is de- 
veloping, in certain sections especially, a 
marked divergence of interests and ideas be- 
tween the capitalist and the laboring classes. 
In America, therefore, the problem of recon- 


ciling sectional differences, of Americanizing 
the mass of foreign immigrants, of composing 
the different interests of labor and capital — 
in a word, the problem of creating a consoli- 
dated public opinion is a difficult one. 

If, under these conditions, the American 
system of democratic government works fairly- 
well, it is partly due to the fact that the fed- 
eral system, with its elaborate scheme of 
checks and balances, is well suited to a large 
country with a great diversity of conditions. 
The federal system is complicated, and it 
works slowly, but it has this supreme merit, 
that it does not confer too much authority in 
any one government, that it allows a great deal 
of leeway for political experimentation in re- 
stricted areas in conformity with the crystal- 
lization of public opinion in those areas. The 
federal system does not require the people of 
the whole United States to form a consolidated 
public opinion on every important social or 
political question, but only upon those ques- 
tions in respect to which it is essential that the 
nation should act as a unit. This is only a way 
of saying that the federal system allows a great 
deal of liberty in local government — it allows 
the people of a state, or the people of a city or 
county, a good deal of liberty todoas they please. 

It is said that on one occasion the French 
Minister of Public Instruction, taking out his 


watch, told his English visitor that at that 
moment all the children of France of a cer- 
tain age would normally be studying the same 
subject out of the same text-book. This could 
happen only in a country in which a great 
majority of the people were pretty well agreed 
as to what children of a certain age ought to 
be doing at a given hour of the day. No such 
agreement exists in the United States. Every 
one is agreed that education is a good thing, 
that there ought to be more of it, and that it 
ought to be better than it is. But there is the 
greatest diversity of opinion, which seems to 
fluctuate from day to day, as to what kind of 
education is best; and it would therefore be 
thought intolerable that the United States 
government should regulate these matters in 
a uniform way for the whole country. This 
is a matter for the state of the locality to 
determine. If the people of Iowa feel very 
strongly that a knowledge of Greek is useless 
in a farming community, the state of Iowa 
may abolish the teaching of Greek from the 
public schools of Iowa. If the people of Gary, 
which is a highly industrialized city, wish to 
try a radical experiment in industrial edu- 
cation, why should they not do so? It may 
turn out well, in which case other cities can 
adopt it; or it may turn out ill, in which case 
other cities may profit by the example, while 


Gary itself can at any time return to normal 
ways. And so it is in respect to a hundred 
questions of government and politics; in re- 
spect to woman's suffrage, prohibition, 1 the re- 
gulation of corporations, divorce, city govern- 
ment, municipal ownership of street railways, 
water-works, and other public utilities — in re- 
spect to all such matters particular states and 
local communities are constantly engaged in 
political and social experimentation, are con- 
stantly solving their own problems according to 
the pressure of local or regional public opinion. 
Where there is so much leeway for the states 
and localities to manage their own affairs, 
it is only in matters in respect to which the 
whole nation has to act as a unit that the 
people have to form a national opinion; and 
this is a good thing, for it takes the nation a 
long time to make up its mind. It took the 
nation a long time to make up its mind in 
respect to the Great War. Many people got 
impatient with the government because it did 
not declare war sooner. But the government, 
in a country where public opinion is the ruling 
power, could not possibly take such a mo- 
mentous step until the people were ready for 
it, until a fairly consolidated public opinion 
had been formed; and under all the circum- 
stances, the wonder is, not that the nation 

1 This is no longer true of Prohibition or Woman'i Suffrage. 

9 8 

took so long to make up its mind, but that it 
made it up as quickly and, on the whole, as 
decisively as it did. 

The federal system, with its checks and 
balances, although it often seems rather slow 
and clumsy, is nevertheless pretty well adapted 
to this large and diverse country in which the 
formation of a national opinion is a slow and 
often a clumsy process. It is often said that 
the government of Great Britain responds 
much more quickly to the pressure of public 
opinion than the government of the United 
States does. This is perhaps true, but it is 
not so true as it seems to be. What seems to 
be a more ready response to public opinion 
is often only a more rapid formation of public 
opinion itself. England is a small country — 
about the size of the state of Kansas. The 
political and industrial and intellectual life 
of the nation centers in London, where the 
government sits. The whole country reads 
the same papers — the London papers — on the 
same day they are printed ; discusses the same 
events, the same men, the same measures, the 
same speeches, the same scandals. Nothing 
like this happens, or can happen, in the United 
States. Strictly speaking, the United States 
has no capital, no dominating center of in- 
dustrial, political, or intellectual life. Par- 
ticularly, there is no center of intellectual life. 


The last place to go to find out what the people 
are thinking about is Washington, as President 
Wilson found out for himself; and it is easier 
to predict the result of a general election in 
Kansas City than in New York. East of the 
Alleghany Mountains the people read the 
New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or the Wash- 
ington papers, and they never see any other. 
In the Middle West the people read the Chi- 
cago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, or Kansas City 
papers. They can't get the New York papers 
until the day after they are printed, and no 
one likes to read old news. If you go still 
farther west — to Seattle, Portland, San Fran- 
cisco — you are again in a new country, where 
a New York paper, if one is ever seen, is four 
days behind the times. 

Of course the newspapers all carry much 
the same press matter; and events of world 
importance, or of great national significance, 
are similarly presented, and read on the same 
day, the country over. But what the people 
think about these events in any particular 
section, and how their particular interests are 
involved — this is differently reflected in the 
different sections; so that to a considerable 
extent the people of the different sections read 
and think about different men and different 
events and different issues. Under these cir- 
cumstances it is no wonder that it takes a 


long time to form a thoroughly consolidated 
opinion on any vital matter. 

It not infrequently happens that the people 
elect in one year a Republican President and 
a Republican majority in Congress, but two 
years later, in the congressional elections, 
elect enough Democrats to place the Repub- 
licans in a minority in Congress. The result 
seems an absurd one, for then there are two 
parties, with different ideas and policies, in 
power, one in control of the executive and 
another in control of the legislative branch 
of the government. In that case it would 
seem that the government could not reflect 
the will of the people. But it is possible that 
it reflects it perfectly. It is possible that the 
country is slowly changing its mind, that it 
does not yet know certainly what it wants. 
This is not always the case, but it is often 
the case; and when it is the case the dead- 
lock in the government is a good reflection of 
the popular will, or lack of it. At least, until 
it is certain that the country has thoroughly 
made up its mind one way or another, it is 
perhaps not a bad thing for the government to 
go a bit slow. 


As we look back over American history, it is 
clear that there has been an ever-increasing 


number of questions about which the people, 
as a whole, have come to think alike, about 
which a consolidated national public opinion 
has been formed; and in proportion as this 
has come about the powers of the federal 
government have increased and the powers 
of the state governments have diminished. 
Whenever the people come to think nationally 
about any question they usually transfer the 
control of that question to the national govern- 
ment. The result, after a century and a quar- 
ter, is that the power and the prestige of the 
federal government are enormously increased. 
If the framers of the Constitution could come 
back to earth and see what the federal govern- 
ment is doing to-day, they would all agree 
that this monstrous thing was no child of 
theirs; for to-day the federal government 
exercises as a matter of course powers which 
they never dreamed of giving to it. This 
result has been the consequence of changing 
conditions and ideas; it is the result of an 
ever-increasing nationalism, a constant exten- 
sion of the sphere of social and political ques- 
tions in respect to which there is a consolidated 
national public opinion. 

But since we have a written constitution, 
and the powers of the federal and state gov- 
ernments are defined in the Constitution, how 
does the federal government acquire new 


power ? The obvious way is, of course, by 
changing the Constitution, by adopting 
amendments to it. The Constitution can, 
however, be amended only when the House of 
Representatives and the Senate, each by a 
two-thirds vote, proposes such an amendment, 
and when this proposed amendment is ap- 
proved by the legislatures of three-fourths of 
the states. This would seem to make the 
amendment of the Constitution extremely 
difficult, and, in fact, until recently it was gen- 
erally supposed it would require something 
like a revolution, something like the Civil War, 
to get the Constitution amended. 

There is, however, another way in which 
the power of the federal government has been 
increased, and that is by what is called a 
"liberal interpretation" of the Constitution. 
As has been seen, it falls to the Supreme Court 
to determine whether a statute of the federal 
government is or is not constitutional; and it 
is obvious that the power of the federal govern- 
ment can be restricted or extended by the 
simple process of interpreting the terms of the 
Constitution as strictly or as liberally as possi- 
ble. Some of the terms of the Constitution are 
very elastic in this respect. It will be remem- 
bered that after defining the specific powers of 
Congress, the Constitution says, "And to make 
all laws which may be necessary and proper for 

8 103 

carrying into execution the foregoing powers." 
By a liberal interpretation of this clause the 
powers of the federal government have been 
very greatly extended. Through legislative 
regulation, for example, the federal govern- 
ment exercises control over the railroads and 
other corporations, a control which may at any 
time easily pass into public ownership of these 
corporations ; and it has this power because it 
is a "necessary and proper" power for carry- 
ing into execution the harmless-looking power 
"to regulate commerce between the several 
states." The Constitution is so elastic that 
there is almost no limit to the extension of 
the powers of the federal government by 
means of judicial interpretation; the only 
thing necessary is to have a national public 
opinion which favors the extension. As we 
say in the United States, "the decisions of the 
Supreme Court follow the election returns." 

But there are some powers which cannot 
be read into the Constitution, which can be 
put there only by a formal amendment of the 
Constitution. And in recent years it has be- 
come clear that the formal amendment is a 
less difficult matter than was formerly sup- 
posed. This also is only a matter of getting 
a sufficiently consolidated national public 
opinion. Such an opinion in America is likely 
to come gradually, without a great deal of dis- 


cussion and without any upheaval; and it 
is brought about by the constant social ex- 
perimentation which is going on in the states 
and local communities far more than by argu- 
ment and discussion. Americans are but little 
inclined to take up with ideas or theories 
simply because they have a logical consistency; 
but on the other hand they are not inclined 
to hold to any custom merely because it is 
old. Their aims are practical and their meth- 
ods direct; and when any new thing is pro- 
posed to them their first question is, "How 
will it work?" You may say that it is only 
just that women should have the right to 
vote, or you may say that to refuse women 
the vote is inconsistent with the principles 
of the Declaration of Independence; but what 
nine men out of ten will ask is: "Why do 
women need to vote? How will it work out 
in practice?" Now, it is a great advantage 
of our federal system that it admits of trying 
out this new idea on a small scale. For a long 
time we have been experimenting with wom- 
an's suffrage, first in municipal elections, then 
in one state after another. The average 
American has accordingly not argued much 
about woman's suffrage; he has watched it 
work in one state after another; and as it 
seems to work well enough, and nothing seri- 
ous happens where it is tried, the average 


American finds himself in favor of woman's 
suffrage without really knowing how. The 
truth is that he has simply become accustomed 
to the idea of it, and he finds himself saying,. 
"Well, I suppose women ought to have a right 
to vote." What he really thinks is : "Woman's 
suffrage seems to work well enough where it 
is tried; there seems to be no harm in it. 
I expect it is bound to come." 

When Americans get the idea that a thing 
is "bound to come," the battle is won. 
Women will soon have the right to vote 
throughout the United States because the 
opinion that "it is bound to come" is taking 
hold of the country. The same is true of the 
prohibition movement. This has been an 
issue in the United States for fifty years; 
and in some states the manufacture and sale 
of alcoholic liquors have been prohibited for 
a generation. The movement has spread 
rapidly in recent years, until now over half 
the states are what we call "dry" states. 
The war has in the mean time given such an 
impetus to the movement that prohibition, 
like woman's suffrage, is coming to be re- 
garded as one of the things that "are bound 
to come." National opinion is already so 
far crystallized on this question that Con- 
gress has voted a constitutional amendment, 

which is now before the state legislatures for 


ratification. It is extremely probable that it 
will receive the approval of the necessary 
three-fourths of the states, in which case the 
power of the states to regulate the manufac- 
ture and sale of liquors will once for all 
cease. 1 

It all comes back to the question of a thor- 
oughly established national public opinion. 
If the people really want to change the Con- 
stitution it is a simple matter to do so. The 
system of written constitutional guaranties 
prevents hasty action, and it preserves a 
great deal of local liberty as long as there is 
a marked divergence of interests and ideas 
throughout the country in respect to any 
question; but there is nothing in the system 
of written constitutions or in the system of 
federal government to prevent the popular 
will, when it is once certain what the popular 
will is, from having its way. If its way leads 
to an ever greater degree of equality in the 
distribution of wealth, if the popular will is 
bent upon establishing a genuine social de- 
mocracy, there is no power either in men 
or in institutions to prevent the achievement 
of these ends. 

1 This proposed amendment has, since the above was written, been 
ratified by the necessary three-fourths of the states. 


THE first years of independence were taken 
up with attempts to solve the many prob- 
lems of peaceful reconstruction under a fed- 
eral government which was one of the weakest 
ever devised by the hand of man. By 1786 
all far-sighted men realized that a stronger 
bond of union would have to be created if the 
United States were not to dissolve into thir- 
teen completely independent republics; and 
the movement for strengthening the Articles 
of Confederation resulted in the Constitu- 
tional Convention of 1787 which formulated 
the present Constitution. Within the next two 
years the Constitution was referred to the sev- 
eral states for ratification, and in 1789 the new 
government went into operation with the in- 
auguration of George Washington as the first 
President. It was essentially over the ques- 


tions giving rise to the formation of a new 
Constitution, and over the question of the 
new Constitution itself and of its approval 
or rejection, that the people gradually divided 
into two chief political parties. Those who 
were in favor of the new Constitution were 
called Federalists because they wished for a 
more effective federal union of the states; 
those who opposed the adoption of the Con- 
stitution were at first called Anti-Federalists, 
but later, after the Constitution was in fact 
adopted, they called themselves Democratic 
Republicans. Washington, Alexander Ham- 
ilton, and John Adams were the spokesmen 
of the Federalists, while Thomas Jefferson 
was for many years the acknowledged and 
undisputed leader of the Republicans. 

Both the Federalists and the Republicans 
were anti-monarchical. Both accepted the '•> 
idea of self-government as it had been prac- . 
tised in the Colonies, and both accepted the 
Revolution as having forever put an end to 
hereditary kings and a hereditary nobility in 
America. But they differed in their respective 
attitudes toward popular government, its 
sources of strength and of weakness, and the 
limitations which should be placed upon it. 
The Republicans were what would to-day be 
called a radical party, the Federalists a con- 
servative party. Hamilton had little faith 


in the virtue or the wisdom of "the people," 
and none at all in their capacity for efficient 
government. According to him only the 
people with property had a sufficient interest 
in good government to be intrusted with polit- 
ical power. He thought that the propertied 
classes, in defense of their property, would 
be the surest bulwark against the double dan- 
ger of autocracy and anarchy, and in general 
the fact that a man possessed property was 
likely to be an evidence of industry, thrift, 
and intelligence. The mass of the people, if 
they were given power, having nothing to lose, 
would be keen for depriving others of that 
which they had themselves never been suffi- 
ciently industrious or intelligent to acquire. 
Hamilton therefore believed in government 
for the people by the most intelligent and 
prosperous people. 

Many Federalists were not so frank as 
Hamilton in expressing their views, but they 
all shared his anti-democratic philosophy. 
The experience of the Revolutionary War and 
the years immediately following had made 
many men more conservative than they had 
once been. John Adams's enthusiasm for a 
republic founded on virtue had greatly cooled, 
and the fear of revolution replaced in his later 
years the fears of tyranny which had inspired 

him in middle age. Especially after the French 


Revolution had run its course, proclaiming the 
Terror and the de-Christianization of France, 
proclaiming the mission of the republic to 
carry the blessings of liberty and equality to 
all nations, conservative and conventional 
people everywhere came to fear revolution as 
a dangerous and insidious menace to estab- 
lished order. In their minds the word "revo- 
lution" aroused the same repulsion that the 
word "bolshevism" arouses in our day — it 
was synonymous with anarchy in government 
and with atheism in religion. 

At the opening of the nineteenth century 
the "upper classes" in every European coun- 
try shared these views. The Federalists were 
the people in America who shared them be- 
cause the Federalists were for the most part 
the well-to-do. The strength of the Federal- 
ists was greater in New England than in the 
South, greater in the centers of trade and in- 
dustry than in the farming districts, greater 
among the educated than among the unedu- 
cated, greater among the rich than among the 
poor. The Federalists therefore voted for the 
Federal Constitution and were in favor ofv 
enlarging the functions of the federal govern- 
ment, not only because a strong federal govern- 
ment would serve the economic interests of 
the industrial and moneyed classes, but also 

because it would be less amenable to popular 


control than state governments had been, and 
would serve as a needed check upon such 
radical political tendencies as might find ex- 
pression in certain parts of the country. The 
dangerous ideas of Thomas Jefferson might 
gain complete ascendancy in Virginia, but as 
long as the Federal Constitution held the 
state of Virginia would never be able to carry 
out a program that involved anything so 
revolutionary or Jacobinical as "impairing 
the obligation of a contract/' 

The bad odor of the word "revolution" was 
easily communicated to the word "republi- 
can," since it was the French Republic that 
inaugurated the Terror and made the name 
of revolution hateful. Therefore the Federal- 
ists feared Jefferson and his "Republican" 
followers not only because they professed to 
have entire faith in the capacity of the people 
for government, but because they still re- 
tained the sympathy with the revolutionary 
movement in France which nearly every one 
had expressed in the days before the Terror. 
The fear was genuine enough in most cases, 
but it was also good politics to fasten upon 
their opponents the terrible names "Jaco- 
bins" and "atheists," and to denounce them 
as men who desired to destroy government, 
confiscate property, and abolish morality. 

The bitterness with which the Federalists 


attacked Jefferson, the solemn confidence with 
which they assured the public that the Re- 
publicans were the desperate and determined 
enemies of the human race, is almost in- 
credible. July 7, 1801, after the inauguration 
of Jefferson as President, Theodore Dwight, 
an intelligent and educated New England 
Federalist, delivered an address in which he 
gave vent to the following sentiment: 

The great object of Jacobinism, both in its political 
and moral revolution, is to destroy every trace of civil- 
ization in the world and force mankind back into a 
savage state. We have now reached the consummation 
of democratic blessedness. [He is referring to the 
election of Jefferson.] We have a country governed by 
blockheads and knaves; the ties of marriage with all 
its felicities are severed and destroyed; our wives 
and daughters are thrown into the stews; our children 
are cast into the world from the breast and forgotten; 
filial piety is extinguished, and surnames, the only 
mark of distinction among families, are abolished. 
Can the imagination paint anything more dreadful on 
this side of hell ? 

It would indeed have been difficult for the 
imagination, even of an excited New England 
Federalist, to paint anything more dreadful — 
or anything more remote from the wishes or 
the purpose of the humane and kindly leader 
of the Republican party. Thomas Jefferson, 
the author of the Declaration of Independence, 


still held to the doctrine that "all men are 
created equal," and never lost his faith in 
those ideals of popular government and re- 
publican virtue, of the innate goodness of 
man, of the regenerative power of simple and 
genuinely democratic institutions, which were 
proclaimed by the generous minds of the 
eighteenth century, and which furnished the 
driving force of the American and French 
revolutions. In spite of the failure of both 
revolutions to realize these ideals in any per- 
fect way, in spite of the disillusionment which 
swept so many honest men into reaction, Jef- 
ferson remained a democrat. He believed in 
government of the people, for the people, and 
by the people. 

The Republicans were those who on the/ 
whole followed Jefferson. They retained their 
early republican faith. They looked at the 
question of government from the point of 
view of the pursuit of happiness rather than 
from the point of view of the maintenance of 
security, and were more concerned for the 
rights of men than for the protection of prop- 
erty. Accordingly, they would have govern- 
ment frankly responsive to the popular will, 
freed from the control of any "upper class/' 
either of birth or wealth or education. They 
would have government as simple as possible, 
limited to the protection of life and property. 


For all of these reasons they had mostly 
opposed the new Constitution, and when it 
was once adopted they wished to restrict the v 
functions and powers of the federal govern- 
ment as much as possible, and to preserve to 
the people of each state all the essential powers 
of sovereignty. In those days of difficult com- 
munication, the Jeffersonian Republican felt 
that only a government that was close at 
hand could be properly watched, and only a r: 
government that was limited to a small terri- 
tory could retain a primitive and arcadian 
simplicity; a government in the distant city 
of New York or Washington, with extensive 
jurisdiction over the whole country, was likely 
to develop into a complicated bureaucracy as v 
open to intrigue and as difficult to control 
as the most hateful monarchy of Europe. 

Monarchy! This, after all, so the Repub- 
licans professed to believe, was what the 
Federalists secretly wanted. They were aim-^ 
ing at the destruction of republican liberty. 
Did they not openly denounce the French 
Republic and all its works? Did they not 
openly sympathize with the British govern- 
ment, that very power which had so long en- 
deavored to enslave America? Did they not 
openly profess a contempt for the "mob," the 
"canaille"? What could this mean except 
that these so-called Federalists were in their 


hearts aristocrats, monarchists in disguise, 
who were waiting for the day when with the 
aid of British gold they could proclaim the 
Kingdom of America and have themselves 
made Dukes of New York and Earls of Bos- 
ton? The imagination of the Republican 
journalists was as active as that of Theodore 
Dwight, and in their vilification of Hamilton 
and Adams, and of Washington himself, they 
exhausted the rich sources of the English 
language. No human motive was too low or 
sordid or cowardly to be imputed to these one- 
time patriots and heroes. 

The profound gulf which separated the two 
groups of the American people in the early 
years of the Republic is a point of first-rate 
importance. It is true that the vile names 
which Federalists and Republicans flung at 
each other were often enough no more than 
the engaging amenities of party politics. But 
the mutual hatred of the two parties had also 
its solid foundation in a genuine fear. Each 
party feared that the other was un-American. 
Each party feared that the other was so en- 
tangled with certain European influences that 
its success would destroy American institu- 
tions. The Republicans feared that the Fed- 
eralists were so tied to Great Britain that they 
were ready to undo the work of the Revolu- 
tion; the Federalists feared that the Repub- 


licans were so infected with French Jacobin- 
ism that they were ready to proclaim the Ter- 
ror and plunge America into the confusion 
created by Robespierre and exploited by Na- 
poleon. The profound and apparently ir- 
reconcilable hostility which threatened to 
shipwreck the New World experiment in 
democratic government was primarily due to 
the connection which still existed, or was sup- 
posed to exist, between American and Euro- 
pean politics. Able men on both sides of the 
ocean believed that the United States must 
surrender either its independence or its free 
government ; that its feeble government must 
either give place to a strong monarchy or in 
self-defense be drawn into the system of Euro- 
pean alliances and so lose the better part of 
independence. For a generation the history 
of the United States centered in this issue. 
The future of the American experiment in 
democracy depended upon its being freed 
from the entanglements of European politics 
and the danger of European intervention. 

For a hundred years before the Colonies 
won their independence from Great Britain 
they had been drawn into every European 
war, with or without their consent, whether 
or not their essential interests were involved. 
In his famous pamphlet entitled Common 
Sense Thomas Paine pointed out that one 


advantage of independence from Great Britain 
would be the consequent freedom from Euro- 
pean quarrels and conflicts. 

We have boasted the protection of Great Britain, 
without considering that her motive was interest, not 
attachment; and that she did not protect us from our 
enemies on our own account, but from her enemies 
on her own account, and from those who have no quar- 
rel with us on any other account, and who will always be 
our enemies on the same account. [Therefore] our duty 
to mankind at large, as well as to ourselves, instructs 
us to renounce the alliance: because, any submission 
to, or dependence upon, Great Britain tends directly 
to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels, 
and sets us at variance with nations who would other- 
wise seek our friendship and against whom we have 
neither anger nor complaint. 

This was certainly true in part, and might 
conceivably have proved altogether true had 
peace prevailed in Europe for another gen- 
eration. But, as it turned out, the French 
Revolution followed hard upon the American 
War of Independence ; and the French Revo- 
lution gave rise to a series of general European 
wars which began in 1792 and lasted almost 
without cessation until 18 15. In these wars 
France, first under the Republic and after- 
ward under the leadership of Napoleon, was 
pitted against all the great powers of Europe. 
The immediate causes of these wars were vari- 


ous, but the underlying issue in the earlier 
period was the conflict between the demo- 
cratic ideals of revolutionary France and the 
old-regime ideals of the monarchical states, and 
in the later period between these same states 
and the revolutionary and aggressive imperial- 
ism of Napoleon. Throughout the period of 
these wars France, in times of reverse, claimed 
to be fighting for national independence, and 
in times of victory for the spread of a higher 
civilization among the backward nations of 
Europe. The allies, on the other hand, claimed 
to be fighting in defense of small nations and 
for the preservation of civilization, and they 
declared their intention to continue the war 
until they had destroyed, not, indeed, the 
French people, but the intolerable menace of 
the revolutionary spirit and of the ruthless 
militarism which was the instrument of its 
propagation. From the beginning England 
was the organizer of all the coalitions, and in 
the end the great conflict was essentially one 
between the continental power of Napoleon 
and the sea power of the British Empire. 

When the world war became general, in 
J 793> President Washington proclaimed the 
neutrality of the United States. But neu- 
trality was easier proclaimed than maintained 
in respect to a war in which all Europe en- 
gaged, which involved the colonial possessions 
o 119 

of England, France, Holland, and Spain, and' 
which was fought out on every sea. The 
difficulty was all the greater because the War 
of Independence had left its heritage of ob- 
ligations to France and of undissolved con- 
tacts with England. As a price of French aid 
the United States had bound itself, by the 
Treaty of Alliance of 1778, to guarantee 
"forever against all other powers ... to His 
Most Christian Majesty the present posses- 
sions of the Crown of France in America." 
The treaty of amity and commerce of the 
same year accorded to France special com- 
mercial favors and the right to carry French 
prizes into American ports. On the other 
hand, Great Britain still refused to surrender 
the military posts in the Northwest on the 
ground that the several states had refused to 
indemnify the Loyalists for their confiscated 
property. Therefore, while France counted 
confidently upon the United States to repay 
its old debt by coming to her aid, England 
used her naval power to force the United 
States to renounce the French commercial 
treaty and conspired with Spain to recover the 
territory west of the Alleghanies. 

Under these circumstances, to proclaim 
neutrality and take the side of neither party 
was to incur the enmity of both; and it was 
not to be supposed that either belligerent 


would respect the neutral rights of a debt- 
ridden and divided country which would be a 
negligible factor even if it went to war. It 
is true that by going to war the United States 
could at least preserve its "honor." But it 
was exceedingly unlikely that it could en- 
force its rights against either belligerent by 
joining the other. In any case, which side 
should it join ? Its neutral rights were equally 
violated by England and France, and while 
the Federalists were keen for war against 
France, the Jeffersonian Republicans were 
keen for war with Great Britain. By entering 
actively into the European conflict, the United 
States might preserve a semblance of honor, 
but it was almost certain that it would lose 
everything else. By entangling itself in the 
European system of alliances and pledging 
itself to stand or fall by a European treaty 
the United States would have compromised 
the revolutionary settlement of 1783, invited 
its own people to engage in civil war, and 
placed the feeble Republic in tutelage to the 
great powers of Europe. 

President Washington was far - sighted 
enough to see that the great end to be attained — 
the great end both for America and for the 
world — was the preservation of the federal * 
Union as the only hope for the continued exist- 
ence of free institutions. He preferred to suffer 


repeated humiliation rather than, as the price 
of national "honor," to bring the promising 
experiment in democracy to an untimely end. 
In his famous "Farewell Address" he accord- 
ingly g ave classic expression to the policy 
which the United States ought to pursue in 
regard to European politics, as well as to the 
motives which justified it. 

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign 
nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to 
have with them as little political connection as possible. 
. . . Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us 
have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must 
be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of 
which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, 
therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate our- 
selves, by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of 
her politics, or the ordinary combinations and col- 
lisions of her friendships or enmities. ... If we remain 
one people, under an efficient government, the period 
is not far off when . . . belligerent nations, under the 
impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not 
lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we 
may choose peace or war, as our interests guided by 
justice shall counsel. Why forego the advantages of 
so peculiar a situation ? . . . Why, by interweaving our 
destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our 
peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, 
rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice? 

It is clear that Washington did not urge 
his countrymen to adopt a policy of complete 
isolation; on the contrary, he urged them to 

T 1** 

cultivate relations with Europe in every re- 
spect save one — the political relation. He 
would have the United States keep free of 
political alliances. If we would understand 
why Washington so strongly urged this policy 
we must read the entire " Farewell Address." 
Only a small part of that address is devoted 
to this point, which is the only part that is 
often quoted. The principal part of the ad- 
dress is concerned with those evils which 
threatened to dissolve the Union and to place 
the stamp of failure on the newly established 
federal government. To prevent this greatest 
of calamities he urged his countrymen to re- 
nounce those class enmities and sectional and 
party rivalries that were likely to weaken the 
union of the states; and it was precisely be- 
cause he felt that entangling alliances abroad 
would endanger the Union and undermine 
free government that he wished to avoid such 

How many opportunities do they [exaggerated at- 
tachments or hostilities to foreign nations] afford to 
tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of 
seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or 
awe the public councils! . . . Against the insidious wiles 
of foreign influence, I conjure you to believe me, fellow- 
citizens, the jealousy of a free people ought to be 
constantly awake, since history and experience prove 
that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of 
Republican Government. But that jealousy to be useful 


must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of 
the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense 
against it. 

The policy of Washington was followed in 
its essential points throughout the Napoleonic 
wars. It is true that the United States found 
it necessary upon two occasions to abandon 
its positions of neutrality. The first instance 
was in 1798, during the Presidency of John 
Adams, when the grievances against France 
became intolerable. Washington's statement 
that "foreign influence is one of the most 
baneful foes of Republican Government" was 
never more in point than at this time. French 
agents in the United States were intriguing 
for the success of the Republican party, and 
they convinced the French government that 
the Federalist President was unsupported by 
the people: "The friends of liberty in the 
United States, supported by the great part 
of the House of Representatives, will prob- 
ably not wait for the next elections, but in 
the mean time will destroy the fatal influence 
of the President — by a revolution. " Counting 
upon this supposed pro-French sentiment, the 
French government at last endeavored to 
bribe the American ambassadors, whereupon 
the President severed diplomatic relations 
and prepared for war. 

The French government wanted support 

instead of war, and when it discovered that 
the people of the United States were prepared 
to back the President rather than to over- 
throw him peace was quickly restored. But 
the significant point in this episode is that 
President Adams, although forced to renounce 
neutrality, was careful to avoid committing 
the United States to any European alliances. 
The very spirit of Washington's "Farewell 
Address" speaks in the memoir which Adams 
presented to his Cabinet in January, 1798: 

Will it not be the soundest policy, even in case of 
a declaration of war on both sides, between France and 
the United States, for us to be totally silent to England, 
and wait for her overtures? Will it not be imprudent 
in us to connect ourselves with Britain, in any manner 
that may impede us in embracing the first favorable 
moment to make a separate peace? What aids or 
benefits can we expect from England by any stipu- 
lations with her, which her interest will not impel her 
to extend to us without any? On the brink of the 
dangerous precipice on which she stands, will not shak- 
ing hands with her necessitate us to fall with her, if 
she falls? On the other hand, what aid could we 
stipulate to afford her, which our own interest would 
not oblige us to give without any other obligation? 
In case of a revolution in England, a wild democracy 
will probably prevail for as long a time as it did in 
France; in such case, will not the danger of reviving 
and extending that delirium in America be increased 
in proportion to the intimacy of our connection with 
that nation? 


Although peace was restored with France, 
the neutral position of the United States be- 
came more and more difficult to maintain as 
the great conflict between Napoleon and the 
British Empire reached its height. Thomas 
Jefferson, who declared in the spirit of Wash- 
ington in favor of "peace with all nations, 
entangling alliances with none," refused to 
declare war even in the face of the most fla- 
grant violation of neutral rights on the part of 
both England and France. To compel a recog- 
nition of those rights, he resorted to commercial 
warfare, laying an embargo upon all American 
commerce with both belligerents. The em- 
bargo proved a vain measure, and at last the 
United States once more resorted to war to 
enforce its neutral rights. Our grievances 
against France were not less than those 
against England, but James Madison, the 
Republican successor of Jefferson, chose, for 
reasons that are obscure to this day, to make 
war on England. Nevertheless, he followed 
the precedent of John Adams in carefully 
refraining from allying the United States with 
Great Britain's enemy. For two years the 
United States carried on the war on its own 
hook, and the peace which it made in 1814 
was no part of the great European settlement 
which was then already in process of being 



Referring to the negotiations between the 
American and British ambassadors at Ghent, 
Pozzi di Borgo wrote these significant words 
to Nesselrode on August 9, 18 14: 

The conclusion of this important matter is uncer- 
tain. The dominant party in America, which desired 
the war, is aiming at a complete revolution in the 
relations of the New World with the Old, by the de- 
struction of all European interests in the American 

The War of 18 12 is sometimes called the 
second war of American independence. It is 
in fact no exaggeration to say that the years 
1 8 14-15 ended the dependence of the United 
States not only upon Great Britain, but upon 
Europe as well. 


The Treaty of Ghent, the overthrow of 
Napoleon, and the European settlement of 
the Congress of Vienna were welcomed by the 
people of America with universal joy. For a 
quarter of a century the tremendous upheaval 
in the Old World had disturbed the peace and 
threatened the very existence of the United 
States. The war with England had not been 
a brilliant success, but it had not been a 
failure, and the record in the war and the terms 
of the peace were such as a young nation, 


which for twenty years had been treated with 
contemptuous insolence, might regard as a 
vindication of its rights and a justification for 
self-respect. With Napoleon at St. Helena 
and the powers desirous of peace at all haz- 
ards, the people of the United States, with an 
immense sigh of relief, turned their backs on 
the Old World and its affairs and with buoyant 
enthusiasm took up their proper task — the de- 
velopment of those inexhaustible resources that 
would one day make them great and powerful. 
^ Buoyant enthusiasm and unlimited self- 
confidence were indeed the characteristic note 
in the United States during the decade after 
1815. The Napoleonic wars had contributed 
immensely to the industrial and commercial 
prosperity of the country, and the financial 
situation of the government was excellent in 
spite of the expenses of the War of 1812. 
But, above all, the old internal dissensions 
between Federalists and Republicans had 
disappeared. The country was thoroughly 
wedded to its institutions, and no one any 
longer feared the monarchical inclinations of a 
pro-British party or the Jacobinism of a pro- 
French party. There were indeed no longer 
any pro-British or pro-French parties. All 
parties were thoroughly American. The coun- 
try had found itself; it knew well that it 

was no mere appendage of Europe; and it 


was determined at all hazards that Europe 
should recognize the fact. 

The consciousness that the United States 
was destined to run a different course than 
Europe was strengthened by contemporary 
events in South America. When Napoleon 
overturned the Bourbon monarchy in Spain, 
the Spanish colonies took advantage of the 
opportunity to throw off their allegiance to 
the mother country, and, in imitation of the 
British colonies a generation earlier, they or- 
ganized their governments on the republican 
model of the United States. By 1820 the 
de facto South American republics had virt- 
ually won their independence, and, like the 
United States, they wished only to go their 
own way freed from European tutelage. The 
United States, naturally enough, was prompt 
to give formal recognition to these new sister 
republics; of the superiority of republican 
institutions she could not doubt, and it was 
for her an immense satisfaction to think of 
the entire New World as the home of freedom. 

The Old World was less pleased with such 
a prospect. To the ruling classes in Europe, 
Napoleon was (what he called himself) the 
"child of the Revolution," and to the ruling 
classes the " Revolution" was therefore respon- 
sible for twenty-five years of political insecu- 
rity and of desolating war. After 1 8 1 5 the chief 


aim of the principal states was to prevent a 
repetition of the stupendous conflicts which 
had characterized the Napoleonic era. To 
preserve the peace of Europe, in the opinion 
of Metternich, who was the guiding spirit, 
at least after 1818, of the Concert of Europe, 
it was necessary to maintain the existing 
political system. The chief danger to the 
existing political system was manifestly those 
republican theories spread abroad by the 
American and French revolutions. It was, 
>4 therefore, the duty of the great powers to 
act in concert in the suppression of all revo- 
lutions intended to propagate or establish re- 
publican institutions. On these grounds revo- 
lutions in Italy were suppressed by Austria, 
and France was given a free hand in restoring 
the Bourbons to the Spanish throne. 

If republican institutions were a menace 
to the peace and good order of Europe, the 
rulers of the great powers manifestly could 
not contemplate the spread of those institu- 
tions in America without misgiving. The 
King of Spain, once restored to his throne, 
therefore " seriously turned his thoughts to the 
fate of his American dominions." The powers 
were accordingly notified that 

the king has resolved upon inviting the cabinets of 
his dear and intimate allies to establish a conference 
at Paris, to the end that their plenipotentiaries . . . 


may aid Spain in adjusting the affairs of the revolted 
countries of America. . . . His Majesty . . . hopes that 
they will assist him in accomplishing the worthy object 
of upholding the principles of order and legitimacy, 
the subversion of which, once commenced in America, 
would presently communicate to Europe. 

It was no longer, as it had been in 1795, a 
question of European intervention in the af- 
fairs of the United States, but a question of 
whether the European powers, having as- 
sumed the duty of regulating European affairs 
in harmony with monarchical principles, were 
to be permitted to regulate the affairs of any 
part of America in harmony with these prin- 
ciples. Under these circumstances, the United 
States still refused to become implicated in 
the European system of alliances, or to take 
any part in regulating the affairs of Europe; 
but in addition to this, it now proclaimed a 
new principle which was but the complement 
of the old. Since the political system of Eu- 
rope was monarchical while that of America 
was republican, the United States would take 
no part in regulating the political affairs of 
Europe, and it would therefore expect the 
European powers to take no part in regulating 
the political affairs of America. 

The first part of this double policy was 
clearly stated by John Quincy Adams in 1820, 
in an interview with Stratford Canning, the 


English Minister to the United States. The 
English government had invited the United 
States to take part in the Congress of Troppau, 
and in reply to this invitation Secretary Adams 
said that 

the European alliances . . . had . . . regulated the affairs 
of all Europe without ever calling the United States 
to their consultations. It was best for both parties 
that they should continue to do so; for if the United 
States should become a member of the body they 
would . . . bring to it some principles not congenial to 
those of the other members, and those principles would 
lead to discussions tending to discord rather than to 

The corollary to this principle was obvious ; 
if the United States would bring to a Euro- 
pean congress "some principles not congenial 
to those of the other members," it was equally 
true that the European powers, if they should 
assume to regulate American affairs, would 
bring to that business principles not congenial 
to the United States. Certainly America had as 
valid a right to become republican if it wished 
to as Europe had to remain monarchical; 
and republicanism was no more dangerous to 
the peace of Europe than monarchism was to 
the peace of America. In view of the threat- 
ened intervention of the European powers in 
South America, an intervention based avowed- 


ly upon hostility to republican institutions, 
President Monroe formulated in his message 
of 1823 the policy (the policy was that of John 
Quincy Adams more than that of the Presi- 
dent) which has ever since been known as the 
Monroe Doctrine: 

In the wars of European powers [the President said], 
in matters relating to themselves we have never taken 
any part. . . . Our policy in regard to Europe ... is 
not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its 
powers; to consider the Government de facto as the 
legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly re- 
lations with it, and to preserve those relations by a 
frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting, in all instances, 
the just claims of every power; submitting to injuries 
from none. [On the other hand] With the movements 
in this hemisphere we are, of necessity, more immedi- 
ately connected, and by causes which must be obvious 
to all enlightened and impartial observers. The politi- 
cal system of the allied powers is essentially different 
in this respect from that of America. This difference 
proceeds from that which exists in their respective 
governments. And to the defense of our own, which 
has been achieved by the loss of so much blood and 
treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most 
enlightened citizens, and under which we have en- 
joyed unexampled felicity, this whole nation is devoted. 
We owe it, therefore, to candor, and to the amicable 
relations existing between the United States and those 
powers, to declare that we should consider any at- 
tempt on their part to extend their system to any por- 
tion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and 
safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies 


of any European power we have not interfered and 
shall not interfere. But with the governments who 
have declared their independence, and maintained it, 
and whose independence we have, on great consider- 
ation and on just principles, acknowledged, we could 
not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing 
them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, 
by any European power, in any other light than as 
the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward 
the United States. 

The essential point of the Monroe Doctrine 
was that, in defense of those democratic in- 
stitutions to which America was committed, 
the United States would oppose the extension 
of the European political system to this con- 
tinent. The most notable attempt to extend 
the political system of Europe to America 
occurred during the Civil War, when Emperor 
Napoleon III, by means of the French army, 
established an Austrian prince in Mexico on 
the ruins of her former republican institutions. 
Against this enterprise the United States pro- 
tested vigorously, and the grounds of this pro- 
test were clearly stated by Secretary Seward 
in 1865: 

The real cause of our natural discontent is, that the 
French army which is now in Mexico is invading a 
domestic republican government there which was 
established by her people ... for the avowed purpose 
of suppressing it and establishing upon its ruins a 
foreign monarchical government, whose presence there, 


so long as it should endure, could not but be regarded 
by the people of the United States as injurious and 
menacing to their own chosen and endeared republican 
institutions. . . . The people of every State on the 
American continent have a right to secure for them- 
selves a republican government if they choose, and . . . 
interference by foreign states to prevent the enjoy- 
ment of such institutions deliberately established is 
wrongful, and in its effects antagonistical to the free 
and popular form of government existing in the United 

The United States has thus defended the 
less powerful states of America from European 
intervention; but these less powerful states 
might well ask, and have sometimes asked, 
what guaranty they could have against in- 
tervention from the United States herself. 
They might well ask whether the United 
States was not interested in preventing the 
European powers from extending their polit- 
ical system to South America in order that 
her own political influence might be extended 
there. The conduct of the United States has 
too often justified this fear. The unjustifiable 
war with Mexico in 1846 was the most notable 
example of those instances in which the United 
States has employed its greater power to 
further its own interests at the expense of 
weak neighbors. But on the whole, the United 
States has not greatly abused its assumed 

position of supremacy in the affairs of the 
10 I35 

American continents, and President Wilson 
more than once took occasion to reassure the 
small states of America in respect to the future 
policy of the United States. Above all, his 
Mexican policy was founded frankly upon 
the principle that the people of Mexico may 
look to the United States for protection against 
European interference without fearing that 
she will herself interfere in their affairs. His 
attitude was clearly expressed in an address 
delivered on January 8, 191 5: 

I hold it as a fundamental principle, and so do you, 
that every people has the right to determine its own 
form of government; and until this recent revolution 
in Mexico, until the end of the Diaz regime, 80 per cent, 
of the people of Mexico never had a "look-in" in 
determining who should be their governor or what 
their government should be. Now, I am for the 80 
per cent. It is none of my business, and it is none of 
your business, how long they take in determining it. 
It is none of my business and it is none of yours how they 
go about the business. The country is theirs. The 
government is theirs. The liberty, if they can get it, 
and God speed them in getting it, is theirs. And so 
far as my influence goes while I am President nobody 
shall interfere with them. . . . 

Do you suppose that the American people are ever 
going to count a small amount of material benefit 
and advantage to people doing business in Mexico 
against the permanent happiness of the Mexican people? 
Have not European nations taken as long as they 
wanted and spilled as much blood as they pleased 


in settling their own affairs, and shall we deny that to 
Mexico because she is weak? No, I say! I am proud 
to belong to a strong nation that says: "This country, 
which we could crush, shall have just as much freedom 
in her own affairs as we have. If I am strong, I am 
ashamed to bully the weak. In proportion to my 
strength is my pride in withholding that strength from 
the oppression of another people.'* 

An episode in recent years which might 
well give the states of South America reason 
to fear the United States occurred in con- 
nection with the construction of the Panama 
Canal. In order to build that long-delayed 
and highly desirable highway to the Pacific, 
it was necessary to obtain a concession from 
the state of Colombia. The state of Colombia, 
doubtless desiring to make as good a bargain 
as possible, refused to ratify a treaty which 
had been negotiated; whereupon the govern- 
ment of the United States encouraged, if it 
did not instigate, a petty revolution in that 
country, and hastened overnight to recognize 
the new Republic of Panama, from which the 
concession for the canal was at once obtained. 
The state of Colombia sought, and has at last 
obtained, partial redress through a treaty pro- 
viding for compensation to be paid by the 
United States. After a long and unnecessary 
delay, and a certain amount of prodding by 
President Wilson, the Senate ratified the 


treaty. Certainly the payment of such com- 
pensation is the least so powerful a country 
as the United States could rightly do to 
make good an act that can only be described 
as high-handed aggression against a weak 

The Panama episode is one of many which 
make it impossible to maintain that the United 
States has invariably acted with chastened 
purposes and worthy aims, or that it has 
never invoked the Monroe Doctrine except 
for the disinterested and ideal purpose of de- 
fending democratic institutions. Nor can it 
be denied that the policy embodied in the 
Monroe Doctrine has been an expression of 
our material interests. The Monroe Doctrine 
is based upon material interests precisely as 
much or as little as democracy itself. It 
may be safely said, however, that in the crucial 
instances of the formulation of the Monroe 
Doctrine one essential and determining in- 
fluence has been the incompatibility of Euro- 
pean and American political institutions and 
ideals, and fundamentally our policy has been 
to protest against the extension of the Euro- 
pean political system to America because, on 
account of the incompatibility, such an ex- 
tension would endanger our institutions as 
well as our interests. In this sense, the Mon- 
roe Doctrine has been the expression of that 

i 3 8 

most deep-seated of American instincts, the 
attachment to free government and demo- 
cratic social institutions. It is as if we had 
said to Europe: "We are bound that this 
great experiment in democracy shall have a 
fair chance. It may fail in the end. If so, 
let it at least be clearly demonstrated that the 
failure is due to inherent weaknesses and not 
to external interference. We propose, if it 
be a possible thing, to make this part of the 
world, at least, safe for democracy." 

It is an interesting fact that the Monroe 
Doctrine has never been so much discussed 
as during the last twenty-five years. Nor has 
there ever been so little agreement in respect to 
its meaning and purpose. The reason for this 
is obvious: on the one hand, most European 
countries have themselves adopted democratic 
institutions, and in so far as they have done 
so the great objection to the extension of the 
European political system to America falls 
to the ground; on the other hand, the eco- 
nomic, commercial, and financial interde- 
pendence of all countries throughout the 
world has so immensely increased in recent 
years that the United States can less easily 
than formerly refrain from playing her part 
in the affairs of a world in which the interests 
of every nation are intimately linked with the 
interests of all. 


The Great War has revealed this fact in all 
its dramatic possibilities. And there is some- 
thing to be said for President Wilson's con- 
tention that in entering the war against Ger- 
many we were not abandoning the Monroe 
Doctrine, but only making a wider application 
of it. For a hundred years we asked, and not 
in vain, that Europe should leave America 
free to try the great experiment in self- 
government. When the better part of Europe 
became engaged in a desperate and uncertain 
struggle for the preservation, as it seemed, of 
those very ideals of which the United States 
had hitherto been the professed champion, 
how could the United States abandon the 
Monroe Doctrine more completely than by 
refusing to take part in making the world, 
and therefore America, "safe for democracy "? 
There is something to be said for this idea, 
but there are two qualifications of vital im- 
portance to be insisted upon. In entering 
the war the United States needed to be quite 
sure, and in guaranteeing the peace she needs 
to be quite sure, that it is democracy and not 
capitalistic imperialism that the world is being 
made safe for. She needs also to be quite 
clear that making the world safe for democracy 
is not the same thing as imposing upon the 
world her own brand of democracy. 

Whether we abandon or maintain the Mon- 

roe Doctrine is less important than whether 
we hold fast to or depart from our profoundest 
traditions. We shall certainly depart from 
them if, having for a hundred years in the 
name of democracy defended the right of 
American peoples to govern themselves in 
their own way, we now, in behalf of " law and 
order," deny that right to any European 
people because they choose to govern them- 
selves according to democratic forms that are 
not agreeable to us. 



3. This land grows weary of her inhabitants, so as 
man, who is the most precious of all creatures, is here 
more vile and base than the earth we tread upon, and 
of less price among us than a horse or a sheep; masters 
are forced by authority to entertain servants, parents 
to maintain their own children. All towns complain 
of the burden of their poor, though we have taken up 
many unnecessary, yea unlawful trades to maintain 
them. And we use the authority of the law to hinder 
the increase of people as urging the execution of the 
state against cottages and inmates, and thus it is come 
to pass that children, servants, and neighbors (especially 
if they be poor) are counted the greatest burden which 
if things were right would be the chiefest earthly 

4. The whole earth is the Lord's Garden and He hath 
given it to the sons of men, with a general condition 
(Gen. i:28). Increase and multiply, replenish the 
earth and subdue it, which was again renewed to 
Noah; the end is double, moral and natural, that man 
might enjoy the fruits of the earth and God might have 
his due glory from the creatures. Why then should 


we stand here striving for places of habitation (many 
men spending as much labor and cost to recover or 
keep sometimes an acre or two of land as would secure 
them many hundred as good or better in another 
country) and in the mean time suffer a whole continent, 
as fruitful and convenient for the use of men to lie 
waste without any improvement ? 

Such were the third and fourth headings in 
the brief list of reasons in favor of settling 
in America which John Winthrop, the leader 
of the European migration to Massachusetts, 
wrote down about the year 1628. It was, in 
its way, a prophetic document. America has 
indeed been a kind of Garden of the Gods. 
"Increase and multiply, replenish the earth 
and subdue it." This might stand as a text 
of which the entire history of the United 
States is hardly more than a proper amplifi- 
cation. In America men have never had to 
"stand — striving for places of habitation." 
On the contrary, the United States has always 
had, until very recently, more land than it 
could use and fewer people than it needed; 
and this is not only the fundamental economic 
difference between the United States and 
European countries, but it is a condition 
which has more influence than any other in 
determining the course of American history 
and in molding that complex force which we 
call American national character. 


"America is opportunity," as Emerson 
said. No phrase so well expresses what the 
United States has stood for, both to its own 
citizens and to the outcast and the dis- 
possessed of the Old World; and the solid 
foundation of this unrivaled opportunity has 
been the existence of an extensive public 
domain of great fertility which the govern- 
ment of the United States has opened freely 
to the men of all nations. How this public 
domain was acquired and disposed of, and 
how it has shaped American institutions and 
ideals, is an essential part of the story of 
American democracy. 


It was mainly a series of fortunate accidents 
that placed the public domain under the con- 
trol of the federal government instead of the 
individual states. Originally, the title to the 
land in the New World was legally understood 
to* be vested in the king by right of discovery, 
and the original grants of territory were made, 
in most cases, to individuals, such as William 
Penn, or to corporations, such as the Virginia 
Company, or the Company of Massachusetts 
Bay, who undertook to establish colonies 
within the limits of the territory granted in 

each case, with the privilege of subletting the 


land within their respective grants. The terms 
of these charter grants to the corporation or 
to the individual "proprietor" therefore came 
to be taken as denning the "boundaries" of 
the colonies which were established within 
these grants. These terms were sometimes 
extremely ambiguous, as in the case of Vir- 
ginia, and often more generous than was in- 
tended. The Connecticut charter defined the 
limits of that colony as extending from "Nar- 
ragansett Bay on the east to the Southern 
Sea on the west part." The Carolina pro- 
prietors were given the territory between 29 
and 3 6° 30' "as far as the South Seas." The 
territory of Virginia was defined as extending 
two hundred miles on either side of Old Point 
Comfort, and as including "all that space and 
circuit of land lying from the seacoast of the 
precincts aforesaid, up into the land through- 
out from sea to sea, west and northwest." 

All of these grants were made in *the belief 
that the South Sea (Pacific) was not very # far 
away. The common idea was that a way to 
it could be readily found by following up the 
coast rivers. As late as 1689, the governor 
of Virginia, Sir William Berkeley, still had 
faith "to make an essay to do his Majesty a 
memorable service, which was to go to find 
out the East India Sea," by sending a small 
expedition up the James River and across the 


Blue Ridge Mountains. As time passed, the 
South Sea receded into the far-distant West, 
but no colony was willing to surrender any 
of the territory which could be claimed on the 
basis of its ancient charter; and so it happened 
that when independence was proclaimed in 
1776 many colonies still maintained extensive 
and conflicting claims to the territory beyond 
the mountains as far west as the Pacific Ocean. 
Fortunately, the small colonies refused to 
approve the Articles of Confederation until 
these claims were abandoned, which the large 
colonies finally agreed to; and thus it hap- 
pened that shortly after independence was 
finally recognized, the western limits of the 
thirteen states were roughly defined by the 
Alleghany Mountains, while the immense 
stretches of rich prairie and woodland from 
the Alleghanies to the Mississippi and from 
the Spanish province of Florida to the Great 
Lakes — an area of about four hundred thou- 
sand square miles — became the public domain 
of the federal government. 

To most men of that age this immense 
hinterland seemed adequate for an indefinite 
future; the hope of adding anything to it 
would have been regarded as visionary in 
face of the immediate problem of defending 
it against Spanish or French or English ag- 
gression. But the extraordinary good fort- 


une of the United States began early and 
has lasted long. In 1803 President Jefferson 
sent James Monroe to France to assist Robert 
R. Livingston in inducing the French govern- 
ment to cede New Orleans and West Florida, 
in order that the United States might be 
assured of free navigation of the Mississippi. 
He had not much hope of succeeding in achiev- 
ing even this modest cession, and Livingston's 
surprise can be imagined when, on the nth 
of April, Napoleon's Minister, Talleyrand, 
suddenly offered to sell the entire province 
of Louisiana. A gift of this sort could not 
be refused; the sale was early concluded 
and the whole province of Louisiana was 
added to the territory of the United States. 
The territory thus added to the public domain 
comprised the whole west bank of the Missis- 
sippi (including those parts of it for many 
years claimed by Great Britain, but finally 
conceded to the United States), its western 
limits marked by a line beginning at the 
mouth of the Sabine River on the Gulf of 
Mexico, running irregularly north and west 
to the 42 north latitude, and thence west to 
the Pacific. The extent of the cession was 
approximately 1,182,752 square miles — an 
area of 756,961,280 acres, acquired at a cost 
of a little less than four cents per acre. 
Once possessed of the province of Louisiana, 

the desire to acquire possession of all the terri- 
tory from sea to sea was bound to follow. 
This ambition, later described as the "Mani- 
fest Destiny" of the United States, was real- 
ized within the brief space of half a century. 
In 1 8 19-2 1 East and West Florida — an area 
°f 37>93 i jS 2 ° acres — was purchased from 
Spain at a cost of about seventeen cents per 
acre. In 1 848, as the result of a war of aggres- 
sion, it must be confessed, the United States 
took from Mexico the territory comprised in 
the present states of California, Nevada, 
Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and western 
Colorado — an area of 334,443,520 acres. 
From Texas, which, having won its inde- 
pendence from Mexico, became a state in the 
Union in 1845, the federal government, in 
1850, purchased 61,892,480 acres at a cost of 
twenty-five cents per acre; and in 1853 it pur- 
chased from Mexico, at a cost of thirty-four 
cents per acre, additional territory to the ex- 
tent of 29,142,400 acres. The entire public do- 
main of the United States, excluding Alaska, 
was thus in excess of two million square miles, 
or about one and a quarter billion acres. 


Never before had any nation so splendid 
a heritage for the people. What would the 


government do with it? Would it hold the 
public domain in trust for the poor and the 
needy, or, yielding to political intrigue, barter 
it away to the land-jobber and allow the 
common man to take care of himself? In 
the course of a hundred years much politics 
has been played in connection with the public 
land, some men have made fortunes and some 
have lost them, there has been corruption, 
there has been an almost criminal waste of 
material resources — forests and mines — to the 
profit of great corporations. In a new coun- 
try calling for hasty development, and with 
resources so unlimited, it could scarcely have 
been otherwise; but on the whole, the record 
of the government in disposing of the public 
land has not been a bad one. 

It is partly to the credit of the government 
that America is, as yet at least, a nation of 
small freehold landowners. Even in colonial 
times the attempt to transplant the feudal 
system of land tenure to this country was 
scarcely successful. The founders of New 
England from the very first gave careful at- 
tention to the distribution of the land, which 
was granted first to the town corporations and 
by them allotted in small farms to heads of 
families. As the common ownership by the 
towns disappeared, the land passed to the 
settlers in freehold tenure. The town long 


retained certain "common lands" — meadow 
or woodland — of which there are survivals to 
this day, such as the famous Boston Common; 
but from the beginning New England avoided 
all forms of subject tenures, either in the form 
of perpetual rents paid to great landowners 
or in the form of " quit-rents " paid to the 

The provinces outside of New England were 
not so fortunate. Most other colonies were 
originally founded by individual proprietors 
or commercial corporations who expected to 
exploit the land by forms of subject tenure 
familiar in the Old World. In Virginia, for 
example, after the dissolution of the Virginia 
Company in 1624, lands were granted only 
in return for perpetual "quit-rents" paid to 
the colonial government. In Pennsylvania 
"quit-rents'' were paid to the proprietor. The 
same was true in Maryland and the Caro- 
linas, whose original proprietors had splendid 
schemes for transplanting in America the 
feudal system of landholding, and the system 
of class distinction based upon it, with which 
they were familiar in England. 

But all of these efforts ultimately failed. 
Land was so plentiful that settlers would not 
come, or would not stay, where the price was 
high or the conditions of tenure unfavorable. 
In the eighteenth century German iirunk 


grants occupied land in Pennsylvania as 
"squatters." Rather than pay the £10 or 
£15 per 100 acres which the proprietor 
charged, they moved southward into Mary- 
land where land sold for from £2 to £5 per 
100 acres. Immigrants avoided New York 
because all the best land along the Hudson 
had been appropriated by wealthy land- 
owners who refused to grant it out in freehold 
tenures. No system of perpetual rents could 
long endure in the New World where un- 
limited quantities of land were lying unused 
for the want of men to develop them. The 
last vestiges of the colonial system of subject 
tenantry, which had been most effectively 
established in New York in the great estates 
along the Hudson, were swept away as a re- 
sult of the famous "Rent Riots" of 1846. 

The federal government of the United 
States, in dealing with the public domain, 
never attempted to establish a system of 
subject tenures; but in the first period after 
winning independence it regarded the public 
lands somewhat in the light of a financial 
asset. The government was desperately poor, 
and it was hoped that by disposing of large 
tracts of Western land to wealthy men or to 
corporations it could obtain in a few years 
money enough to pay its debts. With this 
in view, the government of the Confederation 
11 151 

sold, in October, 1781, 5,000,000 acres in the 
Ohio country to the Ohio Company; and in 
May, 1788, 2,000,000 acres more were sold 
to John Cleves Symmes, and the price to be 
paid for all this land was approximately 66% 
cents an acre. The land act of May 10, 1800, 
raised the price to $2 per acre and permitted 
the sale of land to individuals in lots as small 
as 320 acres in some regions, and 640 acres in 

During the next twenty years about twenty 
million acres of land were sold under the 
terms of this act. But the whole system of 
these early years was open to criti- 
cism. It was based upon the mistaken 
idea that the government could, or ought to, 
make money out of the sale of its land, and 
this idea led in turn to a method of sale which 
favored the wealthy, which opened the door 
to unscrupulous politicians and land-jobbers, 
and which, accordingly, discriminated against 
the actual settlers, who were required to buy 
more land than they needed at a higher price 
than they could afford to pay. 

The early system was in fact gradually 
modified and ultimately abandoned alto- 
gether, and in the successive modifications the 
guiding principle was that the interests and 
the capacities of the actual settlers ought to 
be considered first of all, without reference 


to the desires of speculators or the financial 
needs of the government. In 1820 the price 
was reduced to $1.25 per acre, the minimum 
offered for sale was reduced to 80 acres, and 
in 1832 was again reduced to 40 acres. Mean- 
time, in 1 80 1, a practice had been adopted 
which was greatly to the advantage of the 
actual settlers. It often happened that poor 
men, who were not able or not willing to pay 
the price asked, would take possession without 
legal right of unoccupied land which had not 
yet been offered for sale. When the land so 
occupied was finally sold, the actual settler — 
the "squatter" — could be removed. But 
from about 1801 it came to be the practice to 
give to the "squatter" the first right to buy 
the land which he had taken possession of, in 
preference to all others. This was the be- 
ginning of the so-called right of "pre-emp- 
tion." What the rights of "pre-emption," as 
defined by various laws passed between 1801 
and 1841, amounted to was this: Any citizen 
might "pre-empt" the title to a certain 
amount of unoccupied land (40 acres was the 
minimum after 1832) by actual residence in 
a dwelling upon the land, and by cultivating 
a certain portion of it. If he fulfilled these 
conditions he was to have a certain number 
of years in which to complete the title by 
paying for the land, and during that term of 


years no one could evict him or acquire a title 
that would be valid against his. 

This was a fairly liberal policy, for it per- 
mitted men without any ready money to get 
possession of farms without any formality 
whatever, and to pay for them afterward. But 
as time passed many people began to ask a 
very sensible question. Since the land belongs 
to the government, they said, and since the 
government belongs to the people, why should 
the people pay itself for its own land ? And 
especially since there is so much land lying 
waste for the want of men to work it, and 
many poor people wanting nothing better 
than a chance to work it, why should a poor 
man be asked to pay anything for a small 
farm of 50 or 80 or 160 acres? This ques- 
tion became a national political issue in 
1852, when the Free Soil party included the 
following statement in its declaration of 

That the Public Lands of the United States belong 
to the people, and should not be sold to individuals, 
nor granted to corporations, but should be held as a 
sacred trust for the benefit of the people, and should 
be granted in limited quantities, free of cost, to land- 
less settlers. 

After ten years of agitation this principle 
was finally embodied in what is known as the 


"Homestead Law" of May 20, 1862. The 
essential terms of this law, which might well 
be called the poor man's charter of indepen- 
dence, deserve to be often recalled, and are 
well worth recording: 

That any man who is the head of a family, or who 
has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a 
citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed 
his declaration of intentions to become such . . . 
shall ... be entitled to enter one-quarter section (160 
acres) or a less quantity of unappropriated public 
land, upon which said person may have filed a pre- 
emption claim, or which may, at the time the applica- 
tion is made, be subject to pre-emption at $1.25, or 
less, per acre. Provided, however, that no certificate 
shall be given or patent issued therefor until the ex- 
piration of five years from the date of such entry; 
and if, at the expiration of such time, or at any time 
within two years thereafter, the person making such 
entry (or his heirs) shall prove by two credible witnesses 
that he (or his heirs) has resided upon or cultivated the 
same for the term of five years immediately succeeding 
the time of filing the affidavit aforesaid, and shall 
make affidavit that no part of the said land has been 
alienated, and that he has borne true allegiance to the 
government of the United States; then, in that case, 
he (or his heirs) shall be entitled to a patent, as in 
other cases provided by law. 

Under the terms of this law, entries were made, 
during the forty-two years immediately fol- 
lowing its passage, for a total of 96,495,030 
acres of land. 



It has been estimated by Donaldson that 
the public domain acquired up to the year 
1880 was about 1,849,072,587 acres, of which 
the cost to the government, including the 
expense of surveys, administration, and sale, 
was about 18 cents an acre. Prior to June 30, 
1880, something more than 500,000,000 acres 
had been disposed of, in various ways, at an 
average price of about 36 cents an acre. Ac- 
cording to the report of the Public Land Com- 
mission of 1905, the government had, up to 
July 1, 1904, alienated by sale and gift a total 
of 967,667,449 acres. Of this amount, 276,- 
558,218 acres were sold for cash; 96,495,030 
acres were granted under the terms of the 
Homestead Act ; 1 1 7,550,292 acres were granted 
to railroads; 114,502,528 acres were classed as 
forest reserves; 69,058,443 acres were granted 
to states and territories for school purposes; 
65,739,264 acres were granted as "swamp 
lands." What proportion of the alienated 
lands passed to poor men it is impossible to 
say, for under all the acts for the disposal 
of the public lands, even those, such as the 
Homestead Act, which were designed ex- 
clusively for bona fide farmers, the land-jobber 
has by fraud or otherwise found it possible 
to play his game. But at all events through- 
out the nineteenth century, especially after 
about 1820 and until about 1890, it was 


always possible for any man, however poor, 
to enter the class of landed proprietors. 


The abundance of free land is the obvious 
explanation of the rapid increase in popula- 
tion in America, and hence of the swiftness 
with which the whole continent has been oc- 
cupied and subdued to the uses of man. No 
such rapid increase in population had ever 
been known in Europe. The population of 
England in 1685 was about five million; in 
1 801 it was about nine million; that is to say, 
the population of England had not doubled 
once in a hundred and sixteen years. But 
long before Malthus had formulated his 
famous law of population, which was based 
upon the assumption that under favorable 
conditions of subsistence population would 
increase in a geometrical progression, Benja- 
min Franklin had observed that this was pre- 
cisely the case in America. 

It was in 175 1 that Franklin published a 
pamphlet on the Increase of Mankind and the 
Peopling of Countries, in which he estimated 
that the population in the Colonies doubled 
every twenty years. And he predicted that 
this rate of increase would continue indefinite- 
ly, so that within another hundred years there 


would be more English-speaking people in 
North America than in old England. The 
fundamental explanation for this unprece- 
dented phenomenon, as Franklin clearly saw, 
was the presence of unlimited quantities of 
land easily obtained. 

Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap 
as that a laboring man, that understands Husbandry, 
can in a short time save money enough to purchase a 
piece of new land sufficient for a plantation, whereon 
he may subsist a family, such are not afraid to marry; 
for, if they look far enough forward to consider how 
their children, when grown up, are to be provided for, 
they see that more land is to be had at rates equally 
easy, all circumstances considered. 

Hence marriages in America are more general and 
more generally early than in Europe. And if it is 
reckoned there, that there is but one marriage per 
Annum among ioo persons, perhaps we may here 
reckon 2; and if in Europe they have but 4 births to 
a marriage (many of their marriages being late), we 
may here reckon 8, of which, if one-half grow up, and 
our marriages are made, reckoning one with another at 
20 years of age, our people must at least be doubled 
every 20 years. 

But notwithstanding this increase, so vast is the 
territory of North America, that it will require many 
ages to settle it fully; and till it is fully settled, labor 
will never be cheap here, where no man continues long 
a laborer for others, but gets a plantation of his own; 
no man continues long a journeyman to a trade, but 
goes among those new settlers and sets up for him- 
self, etc. 


The conditions which Franklin described 
in the middle of the eighteenth century have 
continued to exist until very recently. And 
these are the conditions which therefore ex- 
plain the unprecedented rapidity with which 
the people of the United States have trans- 
formed this immense wilderness into prosper- 
ous and civilized communities. 

This expansive movement of the people 
westward has gone steadily on from colonial 
days; decade by decade, year by year, the 
frontier line of settlement, where the white 
man encountered the red man and savagery 
receded before a crude and primitive civili- 
zation, has crept like the edge of an incoming 
tide toward the Pacific. In the seventeenth 
century the frontier line was the Atlantic 
tidewater regions, and the frontiersmen of 
that age were the Puritans of New England, 
the Cavaliers and Redemptioners of Virginia, 
and the Dutch and Swedes and English 
Quakers of the Middle colonies. According 
to the census of 1790 the settled area was 
limited by the Alleghanies; but beyond the 
map was dotted by little communities in 
Kentucky and Tennessee, and on the upper 
Ohio River. By 1825 the frontier had been 
pushed forward to the Mississippi River, and 
the settled area included Ohio, southern 
Indiana and Illinois, Kentucky and Ten- 


ncssee. Thirty years later the frontier was 
roughly the Missouri River, and settlers were 
pushing into eastern Kansas and Nebraska 
and northward into Wisconsin and Minne- 
sota, while the discovery of gold in California 
had created a far-western frontier on the 
Pacific Coast. The census of 1880 revealed 
an irregular frontier line running in northern 
Wisconsin and Minnesota, with settlements 
along the rivers in Dakota, Nebraska, and 
Kansas, in Colorado and California. 

The story of this steady advance across 
the continent is the great epic of American 
history — a New World crusade for the con- 
quest of the wilderness. It is a story fasci- 
nating in its variety, richly colored by the 
romance of adventure and of hazardous en- 
terprises, never lacking in masterly leaders, 
in eccentric characters, or bizarre incident — a 
story of human endeavor, of ends achieved by 
ruthless strength and harsh cruelties, by hu- 
mane and generous actions, by heroic deeds 
and misfortunes nobly endured. But there 
is more in this story than a tale of adventure ; 
rightly told, it will reveal the secret of Amer- 
ican history — the persistence of democratic 
ideals which flourish in the simple and prim- 
itive conditions of a frontier society. 

The influence upon the United States of 
this century of expansion westward, involving 


in every generation a return to simple and 
primitive conditions of life, can be more easily 
understood if we try to imagine what would 
have happened if the Pacific had in fact, as 
the first settlers imagined, washed the western 
slopes of the Alleghanies. In that case, the 
United States, confined to the Atlantic coast 
regions, would no doubt have rapidly come 
to be a thickly populated country, with little 
free land, with a consequent rapid develop- 
ment of industrial and social conditions simi- 
lar to those in European countries. Economic 
dependence upon Europe would have involved 
close political relations, and close political re- 
lations would have implied a similar if not an 
imitated culture. The United States never 
could have turned its back on the Old World, 
and its ideas and its ideals would have been 
borrowed from London and Paris. 

This has, indeed, been true in some measure 
of the Atlantic coast states, and particularly 
of New England. To this day Bostonians 
have what Americans call an "English ac- 
cent," and European travelers have always 
found Boston more English than any other 
part of America, just as they have always 
found the entire Atlantic coast region more 
European than the country west of the Alle- 
ghanies. It was the expansion of population 
into the Mississippi Valley that emancipated 


the United States from Europe. As the center 
of population moved westward the center of 
political power moved westward. New Eng- 
land and the Atlantic states lost their pre- 
dominant influence, and the course of Amer- 
ican history and the character of American 
society were more and more determined by 
the interests and the ideas of a frontier society. 
For a hundred years American history has 
witnessed the repetition, in each generation, 
of the same process ; in each generation a re- 
turn to frontier conditions in a new area, 
involving, within this area, the oft-repeated 
social evolution from the most primitive to 
the most advanced types of industrial society. 
Many years ago Prof. Frederick J. Turner, 
himself a product of the Middle West, pointed 
out in a brilliant pamphlet the significance 
of the frontier on American history. 

In the case of most nations the development has 
occurred in a limited area; and if the nation has ex- 
panded, it has met other growing peoples whom it 
has conquered. But in the case of the United States 
we have a different phenomenon. Limiting our atten- 
tion to the Atlantic coast, we have the familiar phenom- 
enon of the evolution of institutions in a limited area, 
such as the rise of representative government; the 
differentiation of simple colonial governments into 
complex organs; the progress of primitive industrial 
society, without division of labor, up to manufacturing 
civilization. But we have in addition to this a recur- 


rence of the process of evolution in each Western area 
reached in the process of expansion. Thus American 
development has exhibited not merely advance along 
a single line, but a return to primitive conditions on 
a continually advancing frontier line, and a new de- 
velopment for that area. American social development 
has been continually beginning over again on the 
frontier. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of Amer- 
ican life, this expansion westward with its new oppor- 
tunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of 
primitive society, furnish the forces dominating Amer- 
ican character. 

But let us picture a little more in detail 
this "perennial rebirth," this continual re- 
newal of the process of social evolution. Pro- 
fessor Turner himself quotes the following ex- 
tract from Peck's New Guide to the West, which 
was published in 1837: 

Generally, in all Western settlements, three classes, 
like the waves of the ocean, have rolled one after 
another. First comes the pioneer, who depends for 
the subsistence of his family chiefly upon the natural 
growth of vegetation, called the "range," and the pro- 
ceeds of hunting. His implements of agriculture are 
rude, chiefly of his own make, and his efforts directed 
chiefly to a crop of corn and a "truck-patch." ... A 
log cabin, and, occasionally, a stable and a corn-crib, 
and a field of a dozen acres . . . are enough for his oc- 
cupancy. It is quite immaterial whether he ever be- 
comes the owner of the soil. He is the occupant for 
the time being, pays no rent, and feels as independent 
as the "lord of the manor." With a horse, cow, and 


one or two breeders of swine, he strikes into the woods 
with his family, and becomes the founder of a new 
county, or perhaps state. He builds his cabin, gathers 
around him a few other families of similar tastes and 
habits, and occupies till the range is somewhat sub- 
dued, and hunting a little precarious, or, which is more 
frequently the case, till the neighbors crowd around, 
roads, bridges, and fields annoy him, and he lacks 
elbow room. The pre-emption law allows him to dis- 
pose of his cabin and corn-field to the next class of 
emigrants; and to employ his own figure, he "breaks 
for the high timber," "clears out for the new purchase," 
or migrates to Arkansas or Texas, to work the same 
process over. 

The next class of emigrants purchase the land, add 
field to field, clear out the roads, throw rough bridges 
over the streams, put up hewn log houses with glass 
windows and brick or stone chimneys, occasionally 
plant orchards, build mills, school-houses, court-houses, 
etc., and exhibit the picture and forms of plain, frugal, 
civilized life. 

Another wave rolls on. The men of capital and 
enterprise come. The settler is ready to sell out and 
take the advantage of the rise in property, push farther 
into the interior, and become, himself, a man of capital 
and enterprise in turn. The small village rises to a 
spacious town or city; substantial edifices of brick, 
extensive fields, orchards, gardens, colleges, and 
churches are seen. Broadcloths, silks, leghorns, crapes, 
and all the refinements, luxuries, elegancies, frivolities, 
and fashions are in vogue. Thus wave after wave is 
rolling westward; the real Eldorado is still farther 
on. . . . 

The writer has traveled much among the first class, 
the real pioneers. He has lived many years in connec- 


tion with the second grade; and now the third wave is 
sweeping over large districts of Indiana, Illinois, and 
Missouri. Migration has become almost a habit in 
the West. Hundreds of men can be found, not 
over fifty years of age, who have settled for the fourth, 
fifth, or sixth time on a new spot. To sell out and 
remove only a few hundred miles makes up a portion 
of the variety of backwoods life and manners. 

This description, allowing for regional dif- 
ferences in the physical character of the coun- 
try, represents in a general way a process 
which has been going on for a hundred years 
throughout the greater part of the United 
States. It is this "perennial rebirth," this 
continual renewal of the process of social 
evolution, this continual mobility of the popu- 
lation, that has kept America from growing 
prematurely old. This it is which has broken 
< sectional barriers and made impossible the 
establishment of rigid class distinctions, which 
has developed a composite American national 
character, which has enabled Americans to 
retain to so great a degree the simplicity of 
their original political institutions and in such 
full measure their faith in democracy. 

"In 1789 the states were the creators of the 
federal government; in 1861 the federal gov- 
ernment was the creator of a large majority 
of the states." This concise statement re- 
veals one very fundamental influence which 


Western expansion had upon the history of 
the United States. It did more than any- 
other single thing to weaken the old sentiment 

» of state sovereignty and to strengthen the 
sentiment of nationalism. The men who 
migrated from Virginia and Pennsylvania and 
Massachusetts into the upper Ohio Valley 
very rapidly lost touch with the states from 
which they had come. They perhaps retained 
for a time a certain kindly recollection of the 
old home, but the sense of loyalty to the 
state inevitably disappeared. On the other 
hand, they had bought their land from the 
federal government, they lived for some years 
in the "Territory of Ohio," a temporary gov- 
ernment controlled by the Congress of the 
United States, and when the territory of Ohio 
was admitted as a state in the Union it was 
by act of the federal government. In a very 
real sense the state of Ohio was the creature 
of the federal government, and it was the 
same with all of the new states admitted to 
the Union after 1789. 

The new Western states were not only the 
creatures of the federal government, they nat- 

* urally tu rned to the federal governmentfor 
aid in man v thing s^ One primary need oi the 
Western country was better means of trans- 
portation. As soon as they had a surplus 
of food products they needed to have access 


to the Eastern markets; and, therefore, the 
West demanded the construction of better 
roads, and of canals, and, later, of railroads — 
enterprises which could be carried through 
only by the aid of the federal government 
itself. Furthermore, the Western agricultural 
states required manufactured commodities, 
and the Eastern states, in order to meet this 
demand, and also because their less fertile 
lands could not compete successfully with the 
West, began to develop manufactures. In 
order to protect these "infant industries ,, 
against foreign competition, the Middle and 
New England states wanted a system of tariff 
duties laid on importation from abroad. 
Through a system of tariffs and a system of 
"Internal Improvements," the federal gov- 
ernment exercised a powerful influence in 
developing the economic life of the country 
and thereby acquired a political power and 
prestige undreamed of by the framers of the 

The expansion of population into the West- 
ern country contributed also in a less obvious 
but more profound way to the development 
of a feeling of nationality. In the Western 
country sectional differences and jealousies 
tended to disappear through the mingling of 
people from different sections. The people 
who made the state of Ohio came chiefly from 
12 167 

Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 
These men and women, thrown together in 
the equalizing conditions of a primitive wilder- 
ness society, rapidly lost those characteristics 
that made them peculiar. It was soon found 
that Puritan or Quaker, German Mennonite 
or Virginia Episcopalians were all very human 
persons when it came to clearing the forest, 
planting corn, fighting the Indians, and pre- 
serving a decent amount of law and order. 
In this mingling of people from the older 
regions, local exclusiveness and suspicion nec- 
essarily gave way to a more national, even a 
more catholic attitude of mind — an effect 
greatly strengthened by the large influx of 
foreign immigrants after 1820. When the 
mobility of population was always so great, 
the strange face, the odd speech, the curious 
custom of dress, and the unaccustomed re- 
ligious faith ceased to be a matter of comment 
or concern. The term "outlandish" lost its 
significance, and the term "stranger," among 
primitive peoples identical with "enemy," be- 
came thoughout the West a common form of 
friendly salutation. 

The Westerner was crude and uncultivated, 
ignorant of books, and lacking in the niceties 
and refinements of life; but his varied ex- 
perience of men and places, his close contact 
with the hard realities of life, emancipated 


those whose habitual intercourse is with people 
of their own class. In spite of its primitive 
crudity, the flux and mobility of life in the 
West developed a certain restless energy, an 
inventive resourcefulness, a flexibility of mind, 
a certain humane tolerance, and a kind of j 
genial acceptance of ill and good fortune 
which form the basis of that national char-' 
acter which is called America. 

Professor Turner has described the intel- 
lectual qualities that were developed by the 
primitive life of the West in words that are 
well worth quoting: 

From the conditions of frontier life came intellectual 
traits of profound importance. The works of travelers 
from colonial days onward describe certain common 
traits, and these traits have, while softening down, 
still persisted as survivals in the place of their origin, 
even when higher social organizations succeeded. The 
result is that to the frontier the American intellect 
owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and 
strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; 
that practical inventive turn of mind, quick to find 
expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, 
lacking in the artistic, but powerful to effect great 
ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant in- 
dividualism, working for good and for evil; and withal 
that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with free- 
dom — these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out 
elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier. 


No trait was more essential to success in 
the primitive frontier life of the West than 
individual initiative. The man who went 
West to grow up with the country discovered 
that the process was not a passive one. He 
had to pit his strength and his resourcefulness 
against the stubborn resistance and inertia 
of the uncleared forest or the untilled prairie. 
There was no paternal government to fall 
back upon, and no settled social custom to 
direct or to restrain him. At every step he 
must decide what to do and how to do it; 
and upon these decisions his success or failure 
in acquiring the bare necessities of life, and 
often in preserving life itself, depended. For 
a hundred years, life under frontier conditions 
has developed this trait of individual initiative 
until it has become ingrained in the character 
of the people. 

In developing the spirit of individual initi- 
ative and self-confidence, the frontier gave to 
 men a strong sense of individual liberty. Per- 
sonal initiative implies freedom of action, and 
uncontrolled freedom easily passes over into 
unrestrained license. The frontiersman, freed 
from external restraint of government or social 
convention, found, nevertheless, that the harsh 
facts of nature required a conformity of their 
own. He decided for himself what to do, and 

how to do it; but if he decided wrong, star- 


vation or the tomahawk of the savage might 
end his liberty with his life. The frontiers- 
man was free to do as he pleased — but he was 
held responsible for what it was that he pleased 
to do. In the harsh school of frontier ex- 
perience only the fit could survive; and thus 
the strong sense of individual liberty which is 
so ingrained in American character is checked 
by an ever-present realization of the necessity 
of conforming to the realities of existence. 

The long period of relatively simple frontier 
conditions has also preserved and strengthened 
*the idea of equality. It was not that in the 
frontier of the first pioneers, or in the simple 
agricultural communities that were later es- 
tablished, all men appeared to be alike, or 
equal in power or virtue. On the contrary, in 
these communities the natural inequalities be- 
tween men were thrown into strong relief. 
No man could avoid the merciless, if friendly, 
curiosity of his neighbors, or long pass for 
anything except what he was. Pretense was 
useless; birth or polite learning or social ac- 
complishment counted for nothing. What 
counted was a man's resourcefulness, his suc- 
cess in doing what had to be done, and what 
every one was doing. And the able man — 
as hunter or Indian-fighter, as farmer or wood- 
man or mechanic, as composer of quarrels, or 
as leader of men — won whatever recognition 


his ability entitled him to. The idea of 
equality which the frontier developed was not 
an equality of rewards or of possessions; it 
was the idea of equality of opportunity and 
of reward according to merit. 

The disposition to take a man for what he 
is, without regard to his rank or title, a trait 
which American national character owes so 
largely to frontier conditions, has been noted 
by James Bryce in his great book, The Amer- 
ican Commonwealth. The second charm of 
American life, he says — 

is one which some Europeans will smile at. It is social 
equality. To many Europeans the word has an odious 
sound. It suggests a dirty fellow in a blouse elbowing 
his betters in a crowd, or an ill-conditioned villager 
shaking his fist at the parson and the squire; or, at 
any rate, it suggests obtrusiveness and bad manners. 
The exact contrary is the truth. Equality improves 
manners, for it strengthens the basis of all good man- 
ners, respect for other men and women simply as men 
and women, irrespective of their station in life. Social 
equality has grown so naturally out of the circumstances 
of the country, has been so long established and is so 
ungrudgingly admitted, that all excuse for obtrusive- 
ness has disappeared. People meet on a simple and 
natural footing, with more frankness and ease than is 
possible in countries where every one is either looking 
up or looking down. There is no servility on the part 
of the humbler, no condescension on the part of the 
more highly placed, nor is there even that sort of scru- 
pulously polite coldness which one might think they 


would adopt in order to preserve their dignity. They 
have no cause to fear for their dignity, so long as they 
do not themselves forget it. And the fact that your 
shoemaker or your factory hand addresses his employer 
as an equal does not prevent him from showing all 
the respect to which any one may be entitled on the 
score of birth or education or eminence in any walk 
of life. 

Together with this sense of equality be- 
tween men, the frontier also developed, often 
underneath a harsh exterior, a humane and 
kindly fellow-feeling, which Mr. Bryce has 
noted as a distinguishing American trait: 

I come last to the character and ways of the Amer- 
icans themselves in which there is a certain charm, 
hard to convey by description, but felt almost as soon 
as one sets foot on their shore, and felt constantly 
thereafter. In purely business relations there is hard- 
ness, as there is the world over. Inefficiency has a 
very short shrift. But apart from these relations they 
are a kindly people. Good nature, heartiness, a readi- 
ness to render small services to one another, an assump- 
tion that neighbors in the country, or persons thrown 
together in travel, or even in a crowd, were meant to 
be friendly rather than hostile to one another, seem 
to be everywhere in the air and in those who breathe it. 
Sociability is the rule, isolation and moroseness the 
rare exception. It is not that people are more vivacious 
or talkative than an Englishman expects to find them, 
for the Western man is often taciturn and seldom 
wreathes his long face into a smile. It is rather that 
you feel that the man next you, whether silent or talka- 


tive, does not mean to repel intercourse, or convey by 
his manners his low opinion of his fellow-creatures. 
Everybody seems disposed to think well of the world 
and its inhabitants, well enough at least to wish to 
be on easy terms with them and serve them in those 
little things whose trouble to the doer is small in pro- 
portion to the pleasure they give to the receiver. To 
help others is better recognized as a duty than in 
Europe. Nowhere is money so readily given for any 
public purpose. . . . People seem to take their own trou- 
bles more lightly than they do in Europe, and to be 
more indulgent to the faults by which troubles are 
caused. It is a land of hope, and a land of hope is a 
land of good humor. 

America is, as Mr. Bryce says, "a land of 
hope"; and that it is so has been largely due 
to the boundless possibilities of the great West. 
The unlimited resources of the country, and 
the incredible rapidity with which they have 
been developed, have combined to give to 
the American character a strain of buoyant 
optimism. To the American sense of liberty 
and of equality must be added a marked 
spirit of idealism. Americans have often been 
classified as crudely materialistic — "dollar- 
chasers " whose one idea is to seek wealth and 
pursue it. Certainly it is true that our main 
occupation is "business," our great art the 
art of making money. But this means only 
that the primary task of America has hitherto 
been the development of the physical and 


material resources of a virgin country. Amer- 
icans have been primarily occupied with ma- 
terial things ; but they have conceived of this 
task in a highly idealistic spirit. The Amer- 
ican makes money easily, but he spends it 
carelessly, lavishly. It is not money, but the 
making of money, the enterprise, the game, the 
adventure of big business, that enlist his 
enthusiasm. America is a big country, and 
the subjection of this vast continent within 
the short space of a hundred years has ac- 
customed the American to think in terms of 
quantity — the tallest building, the biggest 
city, the longest railroad — these things strike 
the imagination because they measure achieve- 

There is in the state of New York a little 
town of about twenty thousand inhabitants, 
located in the foothills of the Alleghany 
Mountains at the head of Lake Cayuga. It 
is the seat of the university with a deservedly 
high reputation, the library of which has 
what is said to be one of the finest Dante col- 
lections in the world, and an admirable col- 
lection of books and pamphlets on the French 
Revolution — probably the best in America. 
The town of Ithaca is in many ways charming 
and delightful and attractive above most 
towns in the country. Now, the business men 
of this town have a motto which they have 


doubtless designed to convey to the world the 
thing which is distinctive of the town, and 
most worthy of note about it. And what is 
it that they found distinctive of this town, 
which is so notable for the beauty of its sur- 
roundings and for the quality of its intellectual 
activities ? On all of the fences and sign-posts 
for miles around, they have put up this sign — 
"Ithaca, the Biggest Little CityV 

In this motto the business men of Ithaca 
have tried to convey not a reality, but an ideal. 
Ithaca can never in reality be a big city — 
it can never rival New York or Chicago. 
But the thing that strikes the American im- 
agination about a city like New York or 
Chicago is the ceaseless enterprise, the far- 
sighted intelligence, the adventurous daring 
of the men who have made them the great 
centers of economic life; and the men of 
Ithaca wish you to understand that if their 
town is not so great as Chicago, it is due to 
the disadvantages of its location and not to 
any want of vision or of enterprise on the part 
of its inhabitants. 

The United States is full of these "biggest 
little cities." And this is particularly true in 
the West, where there are many cities of 
three or four hundred thousand inhabitants 
that were founded within the memory of 
living man. You meet these energetic business 


men who were perhaps born in Illinois, edu- 
cated at the University of Michigan, and have 
"located" in Kansas or Utah (you meet them 
in the smoking-room of the Pullman cars trav- 
eling to New York, Heaven knows why!), and 
they will tell you of the town in which 
they live. It is always the "finest town in 
the state," although you have never before 
heard of it, and you judge by the account 
that it is exactly like a hundred other dreary 
Western towns. But sooner or later you learn 
the secret of the man's enthusiasm when he 
says, "It's going to be a great country some 
day!" Such are Americans, hurrying on with 
restless energy, with tense, set faces, and eyes 
fixed upon that future idealized state of "some 

It was this type of idealism which clearly 
inspired the writer of an editorial which was 
published in a newspaper at New Tacoma 
many years ago. The editorial was entitled, 
"Why We Should Be Happy." It appeared 
that the people of New Tacoma should be 

Because we are practically at the head of navigation 
on Puget Sound. Tacoma is the place where all the sur- 
plus products of the South and the East, that are ex- 
ported by way of the Sound, must be laden on board the 
vessels that are to carry them to the four corners of the 
world. We should be happy because, being at the head 


of navigation on Puget Sound, we are also nearer by 
many miles than any other town on Puget Sound to 
that pass in the Cascade Mountains through which the 
Cascade division of the Northern Pacific Railroad will 
be built in the near future. . . . We should be happy . . . 
because we are connected by rail with Portland . . . 
with St. Paul, Chicago, and New York; because 
being thus connected we are in daily communication 
with the social, political, and financial centers of the 
Western Hemisphere; because all the people of the 
South and of the East who visit these shores must 
first visit New Tacoma. . . . We should be and we are 
happy because New Tacoma is the Pacific coast termi- 
nus of a transcontinental line of railroad — because 
this is the only place on the whole Pacific coast north 
of San Francisco where through freight from New 
York can be loaded on ship directly from the cars in 
which it came from the Atlantic side. 

Other reasons why we should be happy are that New 
Tacoma is in the center of a country where fruits and 
flowers, vegetables and grain, grow in almost endless 
variety; that we are surrounded with everything 
beautiful in nature . . . and that there are opportunities 
here for the fullest development of talents of every 
kind. We have youth, good health, and opportunity. 
What more could be asked ? 

This vision of bliss would certainly make 
no great appeal to a people who were in fact 
given over to material enjoyments. 

Frontier conditions have thus developed in 
America a high degree of individual initiative, 
a strong sense of individual liberty in respect 
to certain things, and a marked tendency to 


estimate material conditions in terms of their 
future possibilities. These admirable quali- 
ties have, however, their defects. It is a tra- 
dition with us that we are a tolerant people. 
Were we not the first to establish complete 
religious toleration ? And have we not always 
maintained it ? Surely. But the truth is that 
we are tolerant mainly in respect to matters 
which we regard as indifferent. We toler- 
ate religions, but look askance at irreligion. 
We tolerate political opinions, but are afraid 
of anti-political opinions. The average Amer- 
ican, when confronted with any conduct or 
expression of opinion which he regards as 
"dangerous/' or as "morally wrong," in- 
stinctively wishes to "do something about 
it." We have been so long occupied with 
practical problems of the material order, have 
been so completely absorbed in action, that 
ideas, as such, ideas divorced from immediate 
practical ends, seem to us permissible mainly 
as a diversion, and so long as they can be dis- 
missed lightly as "interesting" or "amusing." 
In all serious matters — matters not to be ap- 
proached in the spirit of the amateur — we 
prefer ideas cast in formal mold, are at a loss 
in the midst of flexible play of mind, and look 
with suspicion on the emancipated, the criti- 
cal, the speculative spirit. All that is aca- 
demic, to be confined to the schools, and to be 


put off when we pass out of the schools into 
"real life/* In real life the average American, 
knowing that he is right, wishes only to go 
ahead; satisfied with certain conventional 
premises — obscure premises embodied in cer- 
tain great resounding words such as liberty, 
democracy, equality, toleration — he hastens 
on to the obvious conclusion. When the news- 
papers affirm, as they are fond of doing, "we 
are a tolerant people," the context is likely 
to show that what the writer really means is 
that we are a patient, easy-going, good-natured 
people; and the phrase itself is usually the 
prelude to the downright assertion that in 
respect to something or other — profiteering, 
or bolshevism, or Sunday baseball — our pa- 
tience is almost exhausted. We are toler- 
ant of the thing or idea until the thing or 
idea becomes intolerable. We are tolerant 
— that is to say, we are good-natured and 
can take a jo£e — but don't count on carry- 
ing the funny business too far. That every 
one should do as he likes, or think as he likes, 
is part of the American creed only to a lim- 
ited extent. That it is possible to know what 
is "right," and that what is right should be 
recognized and adhered to, is the more funda- 
mental faith. 

This habitual dislike of thinking, this aver- 
sion for ideas, apart from the type of thinking 

1 80 

and the order of ideas required for dealing 
with concrete practical problems, is closely 
connected with that talent for "organization" 
which is so characteristic of Americans. If 
anything is "to be done," an "organization" 
— a committee, a society, a club, a corporation, 
an association — is built up overnight, mar- 
velously adapted to the "doing" of anything 
that can be done by routine mechanical 
methods. Every one readily "falls into line" 
and does his bit. But this facility implies 
on the part of individuals a disposition to 
do something rather than to think something; 
and indeed the great service of our endless 
"organizations" is that they conveniently 
relieve us all of the trouble of thinking for 

"What do you think about the tariff?" 

"Oh, I am a Republican; I never scratch 
the ticket." 

He does not have to think about the tariff; 
the party decides that, and, like Rousseau's 
citizen, he has entered into a tacit contract 
by which he subordinates the individual to 
the general will. 

"What do you think about the wisdom of 
these Liberty loans?" 

"Well, I don't know; but we've got our 
quota, and we've got to put Tompkins County 
over the top." 


He does not have to decide whether Liberty 
loans are a good thing or a bad thing; he has 
to put Tompkins County over the top ; he has 
to show those Syracuse fellows that Tompkins 
County can do whatever is put up to it to do. 
"What are your religious views?" 
"Well, you know I am a Methodist." 
What he means is that he doesn't have to 
think about religion; the Methodist Church 
attends to that, and no one can say a word 
against the Methodist Church. Americans 
have a passion for regulating whatever is re- 
garded as important; they like to place their 
opinions in the safety-deposit box of some or- 
ganization. In respect to all harmless eccen- 
tricities they are easy-going and good-natured 
enough — "Oh well, I guess it don't make any 
difference !" 

These qualities — good nature, individual 
initiative, idealism, aversion from speculative 
thinking, an intolerance toward "wrong" con- 
duct and "bad" ideas which under excitement 
is likely to run to frenzy and fanaticism — all 
these characteristic American qualities, as 
they have been fostered by two centuries of 
provincial frontier conditions, are still more 
strongly manifested in the newer Western than 
in the older Eastern communities. Up to the 
moment when the United States entered the 
war the West k was regarded as "pacifist." 


People generally were indifferent to the war. 
It was a remote, European affair, with which 
they had nothing "to do." But when the 
United States entered the war, then they had 
something to do, and they proceeded with 
characteristic energy to do it. Mr. Wilson 
told them that the United States had to go 
in. "Very well," they said, "since we have to 
go in, we must do a good job of it; we must 
put the business over." Once organized for 
the war, the enthusiasm of the West rose to 
the highest possible pitch, and no opposition 
to the war could be tolerated — neither op- 
position to the war nor criticism of the govern- 
ment in the defense of which "the boys" 
had put on the uniform and for the sake of 
which some of them lay dead in France; so 
that it was reserved for an Iowa judge to 
affirm as his solemn conviction that Amer- 
ican history and institutions should never, in 
the schools, be brought into comparison 
with European history and institutions ex- 
cept in so far as the former could be shown 
to be superior to the latter. The Iowa judge 
would doubtless have justified his position by 
saying that it is wrong to discredit American 
institutions because it is wrong to under- 
mine the great principle of liberty and equal- 
ity upon which American institutions are 

13 183 

In 1890 the superintendent of the census 
made the following significant statement: 

Up to and including 1880 the country had a frontier 
of settlement, but at present the unsettled area has 
been so broken into isolated bodies of settlement that 
there can hardly be said to be a frontier line. In the 
discussion of its extent, its westward movement, etc., 
it cannot, therefore, any longer have a place in the 
census reports. 

This brief official statement, as Professor 
Turner well says, " marks the closing of a great 
historic movement." In our day the era of 
unlimited free land suitable for cultivation 
has already passed, and with the disappear- 
ance of free land, the old freedom for the in- 
dividual, the old equality of opportunity, 
which have hitherto been the guaranties of 
American democracy, are things of which one 
can no longer speak with the same confidence. 
The abnormal price of the best farm land, 
which now, in the states of Iowa and Illinois, 
sells for from $250 to $425 per acre, is slowly 
but surely creating a permanent class of tenant 
farmers, while the abnormal concentration of 
industrial power is not only creating a per- 
manent class of wage-earners, but is placing 
the control of the production and the distri- 


bution of wealth in the hands of the few. 
Political democracy we have; but the old 
economic democracy is rapidly becoming a 
thing of the past. To achieve, under these 
changed conditions and by new methods, the 
economic freedom without which political 
freedom is of little use is the task of the 
coming years. 



WHEN Jefferson wrote the Declaration of 
Independence, proclaiming as a uni- 
versal truth that "all men are created equal," 
negro slavery was a legalized institution 
throughout the thirteen states. The contrast 
between the actual fact and the proclaimed 
truth was flagrant and irreconcilable. Jeffer- 
son and his associates were entirely aware of 
the fact. It was commonly believed at the 
time that slavery was a moral as well as an 
economic evil, but the leading men of the 
day looked forward to the early disappear- 
ance of the evil. Jefferson and Washington 
and many others, although themselves the 
owners of slaves, were sincerely interested in 
the movement for gradual emancipation; and 
they hoped and expected that the institution 
would not outlast the century of which the 
dominant spirit was a passionate concern for 
human freedom. They would have been 

1 86 

amazed and disheartened could they have 
known that within fifty years negro slavery 
would be the foundation of the economic and 
social life of the Southern States, that it would 
threaten the very existence of the federal 
Union, compromise the future of free govern- 
ment, and end at last in a desperate and 
sanguinary civil war. 

The rapid and unforeseen development of 
slavery in the South was due to one of those 
slight changes in the mechanics of industry 
which so often exercise a profound influence 
upon the course of history. In 1793 Eli 
Whitney invented the cotton-gin, a simple * 
device for separating the seed from the fiber 
which, by enabling one man to do the work 
of three hundred, so greatly increased the 
profit of cotton culture that cotton soon be- 
came one of the chief of American products. 
For the raising of cotton, negro slaves were 
thought to be peculiarly suited ; and wherever 
cotton could be raised negro slavery became " 
every year more intrenched, was every year 
more complacently excused by its benefi- 
ciaries as an economic necessity, and at last 
defended as a social and moral blessing. But 
cotton could be raised only in the South. It 
was, therefore, only in the South, where 
slaves were profitable, that slavery increased 
and was defended, while in the North, where 


slaves were unprofitable, slavery disappeared 
and was denounced as an evil. 

By 1820 far-sighted men could see that 
slavery, whether right or wrong, would prove 
a serious problem because it threatened to 
divide the Union into two parts — North and 
South — with very different economic interests 
and institutions and with antagonistic moral 
and social ideas. As these differences became 
more pronounced, the divergence would per- 
haps create two nations instead of one, and 
in that case each group or nation would think 
that its own interests could not be adequately 
guaranteed unless it had at least an equal 
power in the common federal government. 
And in fact for many years it was the tacit 
understanding that the equal influence of the 
two sections should be preserved in that 
branch of the federal government — the Senate 
— in which every state had the same number 
of representatives. 

It happened that the division between slave 
and free states was sufficiently even, so that 
for some years the balance could be deliber- 
ately preserved by the admission of an equal 
number of free and slave states from the 
Western territories. So long as slavery was 
not regarded too seriously little friction arose 
in carrying out this policy. But in 1820, in 
connection with the admission of the state of 

Missouri, it was proposed that throughout 
the whole of the territory west of the Missis- 
sippi (the Louisiana territory acquired in 1803 
from France) slavery should forever be pro- 
hibited north of the line of 3 6° 30' north lati- 
tude. This would have excluded slavery from 
the proposed new state of Missouri, and as 
the Northern free state of Illinois had been 
admitted in 18 19, and the Northern territory 
of Maine was petitioning for admission, this 
would make three new free states without any 
new slave state, and so give to the North a 
great advantage in the federal Senate. The 
question aroused wide-spread discussion, and 
was at last settled by the "Missouri Com- 
promise," which established the dividing line 
at 36 30', but provided that Missouri should 
be allowed to come in as a slave state. The 
"Missouri Compromise" was accepted as a 
permanent settlement, and for some years the 
slavery question was in abeyance. But the 
aged Jefferson, noting the sudden flaring up 
of angry controversy, likened the episode to 
a "fire-bell in the night." It was indeed the 
first clear warning of the coming danger. 


The economic dilemma which negro slavery 
created was the same as that which is created 


by any system of slavery, including wage- 
slavery — it was profitable to the individual 
slave-owner, but disastrous to the community. 
Hence the ruling class in the South, a rela- 
tively small part of the population, held on 
desperately to the institution which with every 
decade became a heavier handicap upon the 
Southern States in the competition with the 
North for economic and political power. It 
was primarily due to slavery that the South 
remained an agricultural community. Slaves 
were unsuited to manufactures. Cotton plan- 
tations and slaves, constantly increasing in 
value, absorbed Southern capital, and as 
manual labor was a disgrace where slavery 
existed, the poor whites preferred to vegetate 
on their small farms rather than work for 
wages, while the steady stream of foreign 
immigration flowed almost wholly into the 
North. Both in wealth and in population the 
, free states, therefore, rapidly outstripped the 
slave states, and such wealth as existed in 
the South was largely confined to the relatively 
small class of great planters and slave-owners. 
These economic disadvantages were in- 
creased by the steady rise in the price of slaves, 
due in part to the prohibition, after 1808, 
of the foreign slave trade. Since the price of 
cotton did not advance in proportion, the 
continued profit of cotton-raising depended 


upon cheap land and large-scale production. 
Cheap land was to be had in the Western 
territories, but in this respect the South was at 
a singular disadvantage also, for the division 
of the Western territory by the "Missouri 
Compromise" gave to the North the greater 
part of the Louisiana Purchase, while the 
population and wealth of the North enabled 
it to settle and exploit its share much more 
rapidly than the South could hope to exploit 
its share. By 1850 it was clear that if slavery 
were confined to the region south of 36 30',,, 
the North, which already overbalanced the 
South in the federal House of Representatives, 
must eventually gain a great ascendancy in 
the Senate also. 

This prospect would not have given the 
South so great concern if it could have been 
assured that the North would never use its 
political advantage to discriminate against 
Southern interests. The South came, there- 
fore, to regard the union with the North as * 
tolerable on the condition that the "peculiar 
institution," as it was called, should not be 
molested where it already existed. From the 
legal and constitutional point of view, the 
position of the South was a strong one, for 
the Constitution conferred upon the federal 
government no power of interfering with 
slavery in the states, and it was possible to 


argue that it had exceeded its powers in pro- 
hibiting it in the territories north of 3 6° 30'. 
But in spite of legal protection, the South 
felt that with every decade the safety of the 
" peculiar institution " was becoming more pre- 
carious. This was indeed true. It was true 
because the slavery question was not one 
which could be settled by compromise or 
confined within the limits of legal categories. 
Slavery was a moral question as well as an 
economic and constitutional one. It was the 
moral issue that came to enforce the economic 
differences between the sections and ultimately 
made these differences irreconcilable by any 
half-way measures. As an economic institu- 
tion the slavery question might have been 
settled by compromise; as a moral question 
it could not be settled until the Union was 
destroyed or until it became all slave or all 

From the eighteenth century slavery had 
been regarded as a moral evil by many people; 
and there had always been societies, animated 
by amiable humanitarian impulses, devoted 
to a mild sort of emancipation propaganda. 
But in 183 1, when William Lloyd Garrison 
established the Liberator in Boston, the op- 
position to slavery was taken up by a different 
v sort of men and in a radically different spirit. 
Previously, the South had had little to fear 


from the prevailing Northern sentiment that 
slavery was in itself an evil, but that in the 
South, and under present conditions, it was 
probably a necessary evil for which the slave- 
owners were not to be held morally responsible, 
and which they must be left to deal with as 
time and circumstances might determine. 
Garrison and the "Abolitionists" altogether 
repudiated such views. 

I shall strenuously contend [Garrison said] for the 
immediate emancipation of our slave population. I 
will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as 
justice. ... I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — 
I will not excuse — I will not retract a single inch — and 
I will be heard. ... I take it for granted slavery is a 
crime — a damning crime; therefore, my efforts shall 
be directed to the exposure of those who practise it. 

Two points are significant in the above 
quotation. Garrison insisted upon the im- 
mediate emancipation of the slaves. If any 
one objected that the Constitution — the be- 
loved Constitution — stood in the way of any 
such program, he could only reply that if 
the Constitution sanctioned slavery, then the 
Constitution was "a league with death and a 
covenant with hell. ,, The second point is still 
more important. Garrison proclaimed slavery 
to be no "necessary evil, ,, but a "damning* 
crime," and he regarded all slave-owners as 


guilty of that crime, and, therefore, as vile and 
despicable men. This was the spirit of the 
new Abolition movement which William Lloyd 
Garrison began. It was an uncompromising 
attack upon slavery as a crime and upon 
slave-owners as criminals. The infamy must 
be abolished, the Abolitionists said; it must 
be abolished now; and in the way of this 
righteous object no consideration of personal 
feelings, of convenience, of vested rights, or 
of legal technicalities must be allowed to 
stand for a moment. For many years, through- 
out the North, the Abolitionists were despised 
as fanatics and feared as dangerous incendi- 
aries. But the spirit which they aroused 
would not down; their following steadily in- 
creased ; and even outside of their ranks they 
won, more and more, the sympathy of men 
who agreed with Emerson that although "they 
might be wrong-headed, they were wrong- 
headed in the right direction." 

If the Abolitionists were despised and 
mobbed in the North, they were hated with a 
desperate hatred in the South. To say that 
slavery was a necessary evil was no reflection 
upon Southern planters. They had commonly, 
before 1830, said as much themselves. Many 
things in this world are necessary evils and 
are complacently accepted as such. It could 

be said, and was said, that the wretched con- 


dition of factory laborers in New England and 
old England cotton-mills was a necessary 
evil. But it was a different matter when 
people began to denounce slavery as an un- 
necessary evil, as a crime against humanity. 
Slave-owners might think the charge absurd, 
and as long as Abolition sentiment was con- 
fined to a few fanatics they could ignore it 
with contempt. But the danger was that 
Abolitionists might spread throughout the 
North, and if that came to pass, as it every 
day was coming to pass, the slave-owners knew 
well that it would be impossible to continue 
to live in political union with a people who 
regarded them as unworthy of a decent man's 

When slavery was challenged as a crime, 
the slave-owners could therefore no longer be 
content to describe it as a "necessary evil." 
The Abolitionist argument could be adequate- 
ly met only by proving that slavery was a 
positive good, an institution that harmonized 
with the nature of things, a social arrangement 
which was a blessing to society and a benefit 
to the slave. Between 1830 and i860 serious 
and humane and gifted men formulated such 
a defense of slavery. They were only follow- 
ing a marked trend of thought throughout the 
world when they maintained that the phrases 
of the Declaration of Independence were no 


more than "glittering generalities." The truth 
is, said Chancellor Harper, not that "all men 
are created equal," but rather that "man is 
born to subjection." A careful and unpreju- 
diced study of history, he said, would reveal 
the fact that — 

The exclusive owners of property ever have been, 
ever will, and perhaps ever ought to be the virtual 
rulers of mankind. ... It is the order of nature and of 
God that the being of superior faculties and knowledge, 
and therefore of superior power, should control and 
dispose of those who are inferior. It is as much the 
order of nature that men should enslave each other as 
that animals should prey upon each other. 

This was written in 1837, and at that date 
it was easy to point out, with much semblance 
of truth, that the industrial civilization of 
New England and of old England, no less 
than the agricultural civilization of the South, 
was based upon the subjection of the many by 
the few. There was a wage-slavery as well as 
a chattel slavery, and the South maintained 
that the former was worse than the latter. In 
1845 James H. Hammond published a series 
of letters in which he drew a heartrending 
picture of the condition of laborers in the great 
industrial centers. Since subjection was thus 
the essential basis of civilized society, that 
system was best where the master was re- 


sponsible for the slave. Instead, therefore, of 
abolishing negro slavery in the South, this 
system should be taken as the model for the 
reform of industrial conditions in the North. 
The capitalists, according to Mr. Hammond, 
should become the owners of their laborers 
and as such be compelled to clothe and feed 
them decently; while in the West the public 
lands should be parceled out in great estates 
and tilled by the landless poor bound in per- 
petuity to the soil. 1 

As this philosophy came to be the accepted 
social and political faith throughout the South, 
its advocates ceased to be content with the 
negative policy of preserving slavery where it 
already existed. For Southern extremists, no 
less than for Northern extremists, the slavery 
question became a moral issue, capable only 
of a logical and a radical solution. If slavery 
was a damnable crime, as the Abolitionists 
said, then it ought to be immediately abolished 
everywhere — this the defenders of slavery ad- 
mitted; but if it was, on the contrary, a 
positive social blessing, then it ought to be 
permitted everywhere — and this the advo- 
cates of slavery demanded. They demanded 
the repeal of the "Missouri Compromise" and 
the free access of slavery to all the territories ; 

X W. E. Dodd, Social Philosophy of the Old South, American 
Journal of Sociology, xxiii, p. 735. 


they demanded the forcible suppression of the 
Abolitionists and of all Abolition literature; 
they demanded the active assistance of all 
Northerners in the return of fugitive slaves; 
they demanded that all criticism of slavery 
should cease and that it should be accepted 
not only as a legally established, but as a 
morally justifiable institution. 

Put in this form, the challenge was accepted. 
Abolitionist sentiment spread rapidly in the 
North during the decade from 1850 to i860; 
and nineteen years after a mob had dragged 
William Lloyd Garrison through the streets 
of Boston it required over a thousand armed 
soldiers supplied with a cannon loaded with 
grape-shot to take the fugitive slave Burns 
out of that town and send him back to Vir- 
ginia. The prevailing sentiment was never 
Abolitionist. To the end the great majority 
of the people were opposed to any interfer- 
ence with slavery where it existed; but they 
looked with complacence upon the systematic 
violation of the fugitive-slave law, and set 
themselves more and more resolutely to resist 
the legal extension of the institution in the 
belief that if the evil were confined to the 
states where it already existed it would ulti- 
mately disappear altogether. 

It was with this program in view that the 
Republican party was formed, and as the ex- 


ponent of these views Abraham Lincoln be- 
came the leader of that party. In 1858 
Lincoln touched the heart of the matter in 
the following lucid statement : 

If we could first know where we are and whither we 
are tending, we could better judge what to do and how 
to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a 
policy was instituted with the avowed object, and 
confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agita- 
tion. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation 
has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. 
In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall 
have been reached and passed. "A house divided 
against itself cannot stand." I believe this government 
cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. 
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not 
expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease 
to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the 
other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest 
the further spread of ic, and place it where the public 
mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of 
ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it for- 
ward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, 
old as well as new — North as well as South. 

At that time most of Lincoln's friends told 
him that this was an unwise thing to say — 
"a fool utterance," one of them called it. 
But it was, in truth, the profoundest wisdom. 
The more the moderates in both sections 
agreed that the slavery question should be 
ignored the more it was discussed; and the 
14 199 

more it was discussed the more irreconcilable 
the position of the two sections was seen to be. 
The moderate Whig party, both North and 
South, dwindled to a small minority, and when 
Lincoln was finally elected President, in i860, 
the Southern States seceded from the Union. 
The meaning of the election was clear. It 
meant, says James Ford Rhodes, that — 
The great and powerful North declared slavery an 
evil, and maintained that it should not be extended; 
that while the institution would be sacredly respected 
where it existed, the conduct of the national govern- 
ment must revert to the policy of the fathers and 
confine slavery within bounds, hoping that if it were 
restricted the time might come when the Southern 
people would themselves acknowledge that they were 
out of tune with the enlightened world and take steps 
gradually to abolish the system. 

The Southern States seceded because the 
election of Lincoln demonstrated that North- 
ern sentiment condemned slavery, and in 
condemning slavery it had placed a stigma 
upon the Southern people. To admit that 
slavery must not be extended was to admit 
that it ought not to exist. If the Southern 
people remained in the Union, they must 
either abolish slavery or be content with the 
position of a morally discredited minority 
whose social customs were temporarily toler- 
ated for the sake of peace. They refused to 
do either. For the sake of slavery, and justify- 


ing their action on the ground that any state 
had a constitutional right to withdraw from 
the federal Union, they fought a desperate 
war for independence and the right of self- 


In respect to the problem of secession, there 
was no consolidated public sentiment in the 
North. Many Democrats sympathized with 
the South and admitted the constitutional 
right of the states to withdraw from the Union ; 
many humanitarian Abolitionists and some 
Republicans felt that if the Southern States 
were dissatisfied and wished to form a separate 
government, it would be the part of wisdom 
and humanity to allow them to depart in 
peace. While the great majority of the people 
were opposed to slavery, only a small minority 
were ready to take up arms for the avowed 
purpose of abolishing it. President Lincoln 
himself took the ground that the federal gov- 
ernment would do nothing to interfere with 
slavery in the Southern States; but he said 
that no state had a legal right to secede; 
that those people in any state who attempted 
to do so were in a state of rebellion ; and that 
the whole power of the federal government 
would be devoted to suppressing any resistance 
to the federal authority. It was on this 


ground that Northern sentiment came gradu- 
ally to the support of the President. The 
North fought the Civil War, not for the sup- 
pression of slavery, but for the " preservation 
of the Union." 

The right of any government to suppress 
insurrection or rebellion is generally admitted. 
But this was an exceptional case. The legal 
right of secession was open to discussion, but 
technically the South had a more logical and 
convincing argument in favor of the right 
than the North had against it. A movement 
which embraced ten million people, all in- 
habiting a particular and economically dis- 
tinct section of the country, could scarcely 
be called an insurrection ; and, in view of the 
radical differences in social customs and ideals, 
it might well be maintained that the natural 
development of the country had in fact re- 
sulted in the creation of two nations instead 
of one. Many people in Europe took this 
view. In 1862 William E. Gladstone, at that 
time a member of the British government, 
declared in a public address that the "leaders 
of the South have made an army; they are 
making, it appears, a navy; and they have 
made, what is more than either, they have 
made a nation/' On the ground that the 
South was a nation, that as such it had a right 
to self-determination, the British government 


was on the point of recognizing its indepen- 
ence. By what right did the North use its 
superior power to compel the Southern people 
to submit to a government which they re- 
pudiated, and ultimately to abolish an in- 
stitution to which they were devoted? 

The subjugation of the Southern people 
must be justified, if at all, on two grounds. 
It was profound political wisdom, as well as 
good political tactics, in President Lincoln to 
have based the issue on the preservation of 
the Union. Free government as it existed in 
the United States was a new thing in the world 
— a kind of political experiment as yet not 
thoroughly tested, upon which the Old World 
looked with interest, but with doubt as to the 
outcome. Free governments had existed and 
still existed in the Old World ; but the experi- 
ence of the Old World, confirmed by the 
political philosophy of the eighteenth century, 
declared that free government, in any radical 
sense of the term, was suited only to small 
states, such as the city-states of Greece and 
Italy, or the cantons of the Swiss mountains. 
It was still a debatable question whether gov- 
ernment by the people was suitable to an 
extensive territory; and in the experiment 
now being conducted in the United States no 
point was of greater interest or importance 
than this: Could a first-rate political power 


be erected and maintained on a democratic 
basis ? 

It is not too much to say that the disruption 
of the United States would have answered 
this question in the negative for a long future. 
Precisely this result had often been predicted 
by those who sought to discredit republican 
institutions and feared by those who sup- 
ported them. It was said that a great con- 
tinent like the United States must inevitably 
fall apart if it continued to be governed by 
public opinion. Sectional differences of in- 
terests and ideals must inevitably develop 
to the point where political union could be 
preserved only by a government wh'ch in some 
measure transcended public opinion, and in 
some degree rested upon military power. The 
divergence between North and South had now 
reached this point, and the contest between 
them would be decisive. If the South had 
won its independence, the result would have 
been to create an irresistible precedent, an 
unanswerable justification for any other sec- 
tion that was so minded to withdraw and go 
its own way. If the South had won, it is en- 
tirely conceivable, and indeed likely, that the 
United States would have rapidly dissolved 
into a congeries of petty republics contending 
among themselves for a New World balance 
of power, exhausting their resources in mili- 


tary rivalry, surrendering half their freedom 
to some European alliance from fear of ag- 
gression or in the hope of ascendancy. 

Such a result would have tremendously 
compromised the future of democracy. In 
Europe, above all in England, the disruption 
of the Union would have been taken to mean 
that no great state could hope to win or to 
retain pre-eminence in the world's affairs if 
it surrendered itself unreservedly to govern- 
ment by the people. This is precisely why the 
laboring classes in England supported the 
North, while the governing classes hoped for 
the success of the South. In 1863 John 
Bright stated, in words that the laborers of 
England could understand, the significance for 
them of the Civil War: 

Privilege thinks it has a great interest in the Amer- 
ican contest, and every morning, with blatant voice, 
it comes into our streets and curses the American 
Republic. Privilege has beheld an afflicting spectacle 
for many years past. It has beheld thirty millions of 
men happy and prosperous, without emperors — without 
kings [cheers] — without the surroundings of a court 
[renewed cheers] — without nobles, except such as are 
made by eminence in intellect and virtue — without 
State bishops and State priests, those vendors of the 
love that works salvation [cheers] — without great armies 
and great navies — without a great debt and great taxes 
— and Privilege has shuddered at what might happen 
to old Europe if this great experiment should succeed. 


That this was no exaggeration of the feeling 
of the governing classes has been admirably 
demonstrated by Prof. E. D. Adams in his 
little pamphlet entitled, Great Britain, Amer- 
ica, and Democracy. He quotes from the 
Morning Post: "If the Government of the 
United States should succeed, . . . Democracy 
will have achieved the greatest triumph since 
the world began. It will have demonstrated 
to the ample satisfaction of its present and 
future proselytes that it is even more puissant 
in war than in peace. " And from the Edin- 
burgh Review: "It is precisely because we do 
not share the admiration of America for her 
own institutions and political tendencies that 
we do not now see in the impending change 
[success of the South] an event altogether to 
be deplored. In those institutions and ten- 
dencies we saw what our own might be if the 
most dangerous elements of our constitution 
should become dominant. We saw Democ- 
racy rampant, with no restrictions upon its 
caprices." Professor Adams's conclusion is 
that "in England the basic opinion of our 
war was of 'democracy on trial,' and men 
took sides as they desired or opposed an ex- 
pansion of democracy in England." And this, 
in general, was what the Civil War signified 
to Europe : the success of the great experiment 
in democracy depended upon whether the 


union of the states could be preserved, and 
so reconstructed as to retain the essential 
spirit of a free and popular government. 

The Civil War may thus be justified on the 
ground that the preservation of the Union 
was of decisive importance in the history of 
free institutions. From this point of view 
the significance of the war has once for all been 
expressed in the imperishable words of Pres- 
ident Lincoln's address in commemoration of 
the soldiers who fell at Gettysburg: 

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought 
forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in 
liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men 
are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil 
war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so 
conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are 
met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come 
to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting- 
place for those who here gave their lives that that 
nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper 
that we should do this. But in a larger sense we 
cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 
hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, 
who struggled here have consecrated it far above our 
poor power to add or detract. The world will little 
note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it 
can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the 
living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished 
work which they who fought here have thus far so 
nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedi- 
cated to the great task remaining before us — that from 


these honored dead we take increased devotion to that 
cause for which they gave the last full measure of de- 
votion — that we here highly resolve that these dead 
shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under 
God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that 
government of the people, by the people, for the people 
shall not perish from the earth. 

In this brief address of scarcely more than 
two hundred words, delivered within the space 
of two minutes, an address which by common 
consent ranks among the classics of English 
speech, Abraham Lincoln revealed the signifi- 
cance of the American experiment, and of the 
Civil War as part of that experiment, both 
for the New World and for the Old. 

But the war could scarcely have been justi- 
fied on this ground, on this ground, precisely, 
it could indeed have been condemned, if the 
Southern claim to independence had rested 
upon permanent and ineradicable differences 
of race and language and of traditional cus- 
tom. This was not the case. The funda- 
mental and ultimately the sole cause of quar- 
rel was slavery; and slavery was not only 
contrary to the trend of modern economic 
development and of modern thought, but 
flagrantly and completely contrary to the 
ideas in behalf of which the United States won 
its independence from Great Britain, as well 
as to the spirit of its political institutions. 


The social philosophy by which the South 
justified slavery was a denial of America's 
birthright; and precisely because the war to 
preserve the Union was justified as a test 
whether a nation "conceived in liberty, and 
dedicated to the proposition that ail men are 
equal," could long endure, such a war would 
have been meaningless if, in preserving the 
Union, it had not destroyed the one thing 
which made the preservation of the Union 
useless. In effect, therefore, if not in origin, 
the Civil War was a war for the abolition of 
slavery as a menace to popular government 
and to everything which made America of 
peculiar significance to the world. 

Before the end the North began to realize 
that if the war did not bring about the de- 
struction of slavery it would have been fought 
in vain. No question was on President Lin- 
coln's mind more than precisely this problem 
of the relation of slavery to the war. Luke- 
warm conservatives were afraid that he would 
use his power as commander-in-chief of the 
army to declare the slaves emancipated; and 
impatient Abolitionists criticized him for tim- 
idly refusing to emancipate them. After 
eighteen months of war, Horace Greeley, in 
an editorial in the New York Tribune, de- 
manded in behalf of "twenty millions" of 
people that the President should abandon a 


policy of vacillation and come out at once in 
favor of emancipation. In reply to Greeley, 
Lincoln wrote a brief and masterly letter in 
which he annihilated his passionate critic by 
a simple and lucid statement of his policy. 

As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing," as you say, 
I have not meant to leave any one in doubt. I would 
save the Union. I would save it in the shortest way 
under the Constitution. The sooner the national 
authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be 
"the Union as it was." If there be those who would not 
save the Union unless they could at the same time save 
slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those 
who would not save the Union unless they could at the 
same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. 
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the 
Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. 
If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, 
I would do it; if I could save the Union by freeing all 
the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by 
freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also 
do that. What I do about slavery and the colored 
*■««»% I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; 
aeuVwhat I forbear I forbear because I do not believe 
it would help to save the Union. I shall do less when- 
ever I believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I 
shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will 
help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown 
to be errors, and I shall adopt new views so fast as they 
shall appear to be true views. 

On first reading, this letter seems to displav 
a marked indifference to slavery, and one 


wonders why the President placed the preser- 
vation of the Union above everything else. 
Probably few men ever hated African slavery 
with a more intense hatred than Abraham 
Lincoln. Yet he put the safety of the Union 
first. The reason for this was that he believed 
everything else depended upon it. If the 
Union were dissolved, so he thought, not 
only would the bright promise of free govern- 
ment be lost, but the best chance of freeing the 
slaves would be lost, too. Freedom in every 
sense, in the personal and in the political 
sense, depended upon preserving the Union. 
To have proclaimed the freedom of the slaves 
would have been a mere aimless gesture in 
the air if the South could not be brought 
back into the Union. The question which 
the President had to consider was, therefore, 
this: What effect would an emancipation 
proclamation have upon the outcome of the 
war? Would it strengthen or weaken North- 
ern support of the war? Would it strengthen 
or weaken Southern resistance ? 

In the early months of the war, when the 
South was victorious in a military way, the 
President judged, and rightly, that a procla- 
mation of emancipation would strengthen the 
Southern States in their determination never 
to re-enter the Union with the North, at the 
same time that it would alienate a great body 


of Northern people who were unwilling to fight 
for the freedom of the negroes. Above all, 
the President was endeavoring to win over 
certain "border" slave states — states like 
Kentucky, where pro-slave sentiment was not 
so strong and where a good proportion of the 
people were opposed to secession. To inter- 
fere with slavery would tend to drive these 
border states into the arms of the Southern 
Confederacy. The President was, therefore, 
waiting for the day when moderate Northern 
sentiment should be ready for the policy of 
emancipation, and when the attitude of the 
border slave states would no longer be seriously 
affected by such a policy. 

But aside from all this, Lincoln was looking 
beyond the war to the conditions that would 
make for a just and lasting peace. He hoped 
for a peace which, without conceding the 
Southern claims, would effect, if possible, a 
genuine reconciliation between the two sec- 
tions. If the Union were to be preserved, the 
people of the North and the people of the 
South would have to live together; it would 
be better if they could live together in har- 
mony, without bitterness and rancor, "with 
malice toward none, with charity for all." 
The President would therefore have been 
glad if the preservation of the Union could 
have been secured and slavery abolished by 


a diplomatic instead of by a military victory. 
His policy in respect to slavery was closely 
connected with this idea. In the first years 
of the war he hoped that a policy of emanci- 
pating the slaves with compensation to the 
owners might win over a sufficient number of 
the slave states to make it hopeless for the 
rest to continue the struggle. If this could 
be accomplished the great objects of the war 
would be attained ; slavery would be abolished 
and the Union preserved — preserved in the 
most effective way, without the aftermath of 
sectional bitterness which was likely to follow 
a war waged to the bitter end and a peace 
founded upon military conquest and enforced 
at the point of the sword. 

Unhappily, this outcome was impossible. 
Neither the North nor the South was pre- 
pared to accept such a program; the South 
would not accept emancipation on any terms ; 
the North would not concede compensation. 
As soon as the President was convinced of 
this, he was ready to proclaim emancipation 
as a military measure, and it is a significant 
fact that when he wrote his famous reply to 
Horace Greeley there was already lying in 
his desk the draft of an emancipation proc- 
lamation. He was waiting only for a favor- 
able turn in the military situation. Accord- 
ingly, on the 23d of September, 1862, six days 


after General Lee's invasion of Maryland was 
checked at the battle of Antietam, President 
Lincoln proclaimed the unconditional freedom 
of all the slaves within those states which 
should still be in arms against the federal 
government on the ist of January, 1863. 
But the South was confident of victory. At 
the opening of the new year none of the 
confederated states had made its peace with 
the federal gcv r - rnment. The war was, there- 
fore, fought to the bitter end ; and the South- 
ern States, without their slaves and without 
compensation for them, were compelled to re- 
enter the Union as the result of a complete 
military conquest. 

The Civil War settled two questions: it 
abolished chattel slavery, and it preserved 
the Union in the sense that it established 
the doctrine that this is "an indestructible 
union of indestructible states." These ques- 
tions the war settled permanently. Two other 
questions, which grew out of the war, were 
left for the future: the reconciliation of the 
Southern people, and the status of the liber- 
ated colored race. 

It was to be expected that four years of 
civil war, carried on to the bitter end, would 
leave their heritage of sectional rancor and 
animosity. Under the circumstances, the task 
of reconstructing the political union on just 


principles, and in a manner likely to reconcile 
the Southern people to their defeat as quickly 
as possible and to enable them to resume their 
political functions without undue humiliation, 
was an exceedingly difficult one. It might 
have been accomplished had President Lin- 
coln been spared to shape the policy of recon- 
struction in the humane and enlightened spirit 
of the second Inaugural Address — "With 
malice toward none, with charity for all." 
But such a spirit was not to prevail. At the 
moment of victory the President was shot 
down in cold blood by John Wilkes Booth, a 
self-constituted avenger of the South. It was 
the most senseless crime recorded in political 
history, for it deprived the South of its best 
friend and the North of its wisest leader — the 
one indispensable reconciler of a disunited and 
embittered nation. 

President Lincoln's just and humane policy 
of reconstruction was adopted by his suc- 
cessor; but Andrew Johnson, although an able 
and well-meaning man, was in origin and by 
temperament wholly unfitted for the high re- 
sponsibility which was thus thrust upon him. 
He assumed all the authority of his office, 
although it was a mere accident and no popu- 
lar mandate that placed him in it. No man 
ever needed a reasonable and conciliatory 
temper so much who possessed so little of 
15 215 

either. An irreconcilable misunderstanding 
at once developed between the President and 
the Congress, in which the latter gained the 
upper hand, and a disastrous policy of re- 
construction was finally carried out in a futile 
spirit of punishment and revenge under the 
leadership of embittered fanatics such as 
Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens. The 
Southern people accepted their defeat, but 
they were unwilling to confer immediately 
upon all the freedmen those civil and political 
rights which would have given to a densely 
ignorant and hopelessly incompetent race an 
ascendancy in many Southern states. The 
North in turn refused to admit the Southern 
States into the Union on any other terms. 
To attain these ends, the South was accord- 
ingly subjected for some years to military 
occupation; the Southern whites were prac- 
tically excluded from all political functions; 
and under the protection of the Northern 
army, the negroes, unscrupulously led and 
exploited by Northern political adventurers 
called "Carpet-baggers," organized the new 
state governments which accepted the North- 
ern terms, in the form of the Fourteenth 
Amendment to the Constitution, and were 
then admitted to the Union. 

The Carpet-bag regime, in which the whites 
took practically no part, was a travesty upon 


the principle of self-government and a dis- 
grace from every point of view. It precipi- 
tated a condition of confusion, of political 
corruption, and of social anarchy such as the 
war itself never produced; and although it 
forced the South to accept the Northern terms, 
it failed to accomplish the object which those 
terms were designed to accomplish — it failed 
to confer permanently upon the colored race 
an equality of civil and political rights. As 
soon as the Northern army was removed the 
Southern whites resumed control, and the 
negroes were immediately, and have since re- 
mained, practically disfranchised. In form 
the Union was restored, but in spirit it re- 
mained divided; and the aftermath of bitter- 
ness and rancor which divided the sections for 
a generation was due not so much to the war 
itself as it was to the experience of the recon- 
struction era. The Southern people accepted 
defeat, they accepted the abolition of slavery, 
and they were in the way of recognizing that 
they fought not only a losing cause, but a bad 
one; but the ruthless, undemocratic, and hu- 
miliating domination forced upon them dur- 
ing the Carpet-bag regime, and the economic 
exploitation which accompanied it, they could 
not forget and did not forgive. The result 
was a "Solid South," which remained un- 
reconciled for forty years, and which to this 


day votes as a unit against the Republican 
party, which sought in vain to confer political 
privileges and to reconstitute national unity 
at the point of the bayonet. The good results 
of "unconditional surrender" in the military 
sense — of General Lee at Appomattox — were 
half lost by the "unconditional surrender" 
in the political and moral sense which the 
North imposed upon the South after it had 
admitted defeat and laid down its arms. 

It has been well said that slavery was only 
the worst solution of the negro problem, and 
that while the war abolished slavery as a bad 
solution of the problem, it did nothing to 
abolish the problem itself. This is profoundly 
true; and it was in large part because the 
Northern leaders failed to recognize this truth 
that the reconstruction policy proved a fiasco. 
The negro could be freed by force of arms; 
by force of arms civil and political rights 
could be conferred upon him in a formal and 
legal sense; but force of arms was helpless 
to make these rights a reality because neither 
force of arms nor legal decrees could bring 
about an assimilation of the two races or 
compel the ancient masters to recognize their 
former slaves as equals. Thus it is that 
although the war abolished slavery, and the 
Fourteenth Amendment conferred civil and 
political rights upon the freedmen, the prob- 


lem of the colored race, and the problem of 
making our democracy work in respect to the 
colored race, remains still unsolved. 

There are to-day about ten million people of 
African or of mixed African and Caucasian 
descent in the United States — mainly in the 
South; and they remain to-day, as they were 
before the war, an inferior class. It could not, 
of course, be otherwise than that a people so 
long enslaved and so recently emancipated 
should still be, on the whole, poorer, more 
ignorant, and more debased than the white 
descendants of people who for centuries have 
been among the most civilized in the world. 
This in itself would not make the problem 
of the colored race a special and particularly 
difficult one. There are perhaps as many 
poor, ignorant, and debased people among the 
white inhabitants of the United States. What 
makes the problem of the colored race a serious 
one is the fact that they are a class apart. 
The inferiority of the colored man is not an 
individual, but a racial matter ; however pros- 
perous, intelligent, or cultivated a black man 
becomes, he is still, in virtue of being a black 
man, in a position of inferiority as compared 
with white men of similar attainments and 

The amalgamation of the two races would 
in any case be slow because of the radical 


differences, mental and physical, which keep 
them apart. But that this would not be an 
insuperable barrier is proved by the large 
number of people of mixed blood among the 
colored population. What the whites object 
to is intermarriage with negroes, and to asso- 
ciating on equal terms with them; and the 
chief reason for this is the indelible stigma 
which the tradition of slavery has placed upon 
them. The Southern people very frankly 
maintain the pre-war attitude of mind in re- 
spect to their relations with the colored race. 
They like the negro well enough in a con- 
descending way; they have for him less in- 
stinctive physical repulsion than the North- 
erner has, and they are even more disposed 
to treat him kindly — as long as he "keeps his 
place." But his "place" is still one of in- 
feriority; in every respect, except in legal 
status, the colored race is still regarded in 
the South as a servile and an outcast class. 
The attitude of the Northerner toward the 
negro is much the same, although the North- 
erner is less frank in admitting it. On the 
whole, the Northerner dislikes the negro more 
than the Southerner does, understands him 
less well, has less patience with his habits 
and idiosyncrasies; and however much he 
may say that this repulsion is a mere preju- 
dice, that the colored man is "as good as 


any one else" and ought to be treated as an 
equal, he does not commonly treat him as 
an equal; in spite of theories and good in- 
tentions, some subtle repulsion keeps the two 
races apart, in the North no less than in the 

The negro is not only in a position of social 
inferiority; in the economic field he labors 
at a great disadvantage. Carefully prepared 
statistics show that the per capita wealth of 
the negroes throughout the country is #34, 
while that of the whites is $885 in the South 
and #1,320 in the North. That a people so 
recently emancipated should be poor is nat- 
ural enough, but the natural economic back- 
wardness of the negroes is accentuated by the 
social prejudice which virtually closes many 
occupations to them, or restricts their ad- 
vancement in such occupations as they may 
enter. Apart from all natural or racial handi- 
caps, it is still true that the negro in the 
United States does not enjoy an equal eco- 
nomic opportunity with the white man of 
similar intelligence and industry. 

To the social and economic disadvantages 
must finally be added a marked political dis- 
crimination. The federal Constitution con- 
fers upon the negro the same right of voting 
which white men possess; but the social preju- 
dice and economic inequality under which he 


lives and labors, in the Southern States es- 
pecially, give such an ascendancy to the 
whites that it is possible for them practically 
to exclude the negro from any effective ex- 
ercise of his political rights. In spite of the 
Constitution, the colored people are in fact a 
disfranchised people in all the Southern states. 
Thus it happens that, so far as the ten million 
colored people are concerned, American de- 
mocracy does not work, or at least it works 
badly. The negro is an American, but he is 
an American who remains apart, unassimilated 
with the white population, economically still 
a servile class, socially inferior, and politically 

If slavery was a menace to free institutions, 
the existence of this unassimilated class, which 
is regarded as inferior and practically treated 
as such, is also a menace, in however less a 
degree, to free institutions. It may be true 
that the United States was "conceived in 
liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that 
all men are created equal"; but it must be 
admitted that there is an ugly contrast be- 
tween the actual fact and the ideal profession 
so long as one-tenth of the population is de- 
prived of its liberty and treated as inferior 
on account of its "race, color, and previous 
condition of servitude. " Perhaps the problem 
is unsolvable; if so, it must be noted as one 


of those situations to which our democratic 
formula does not apply. 

No doubt the practical application of any 
ideal of government and society can never 
be perfect; and it is obvious enough that 
democracy works best in communities where 
there is a great degree of homogeneity in the 
population. There are exceptions to the rule, 
as, for example, Switzerland (even in Switzer- 
land it is a question whether the lack of 
homogeneity is not more apparent than real) ; 
but generally speaking, where racial or cult- 
ural or economic interests tend to divide the 
population into distinct groups, and where the 
difference between the groups tends to be- 
come deep-seated and permanent, there the 
practical application of democratic principles 
becomes difficult or impossible. Such group 
differences are common and chronic in many 
European communities; but in the United 
States the unassimilated negro group is the 
more striking phenomenon precisely because 
of the astonishing rapidity with which the 
great number of foreign immigrants has been 
assimilated. The people of the United States 
have been recruited from every country of 
Europe; but hitherto the characteristics of 
nationality, of language and culture, which 
distinguish the immigrant when he arrives 
have disappeared within a generation; his 


children have become Americans, indistin- 
guishable from the general type. Hitherto the 
negro, and perhaps certain Oriental peoples 
like the Chinese, have seemed to be the only 
people whom the American nation has not 
been able to assimilate readily. 

But in recent years the process of Amer- 
icanizing even the European immigrants has 
come to be less rapid and less complete. 
There are now more numerous and larger 
groups of people speaking a foreign language 
in the United States than ever before; and 
these groups, under certain conditions, tend 
more and more to persist as groups apart, 
like the negro unassimilated to the general 
type, and like the negro regarded in some 
measure as economically servile and socially 
inferior. The negro problem is thus no iso- 
lated problem; it is a part, although no doubt 
the most difficult part, of a larger problem 
which confronts democracy in this country. 
This problem is the problem of Americaniza- 
tion — of assimilating diverse racial and eco- 
nomic groups to a common type, with com- 
mon interests and ideals. 



IT is sometimes said that the Monroe Doc- 
trine is the expression of a policy of selfish 
isolation. By insisting upon this policy, so 
it is claimed, the United States virtually says 
to Europe, "Since we have got, by our own 
efforts and the favor of Providence, a very 
fine country, we prefer to enjoy it ourselves; 
you will therefore kindly mind your own 
business and we will mind ours." This is 
indeed the substance, put in very undiplo- 
matic language, of what the United States 
has said to the governments of Europe, but 
it is the very opposite of what it has said to 
the people of Europe. To the people of Eu- 
rope the United States has said: "We do not 
want your political system over here, 1 but we 
do want you — the more the better." 
^ To this generous invitation the people of 
Europe have responded. From colonial days 
they have come in ever-increasing numbers, 

This policy has recently been reversed. 


and in an ever greater diversity of language, 
of religion, and of nationality. In the year 
19 10 more than a million foreigners, excluding 
those from Canada and Mexico, came to this 
country. If they had all landed at the port of 
New York, as in fact most of them did, and 
if their arrival had been uniformly distributed 
throughout the year, one might picture them 
coming down an imaginary gang-plank at 
Ellis Island about 3,000 every day, 120 every 
hour, day and night, 2 every minute, a con- 
tinuous stream of people of both sexes, of 
every race and language and religion of Eu- 
rope, abandoning their native land to come 
to America. Why do they come? What do 
they seek? 

The motives of the immigrants are of course 
many, varying with the country, the class, the 
race from which they come; but in a general 
way it may be said that the people of Europe 
have come to the United States in such large 
numbers because it has been, or they have 
imagined it to be, a land of liberty, of oppor- 
tunity, above all, of economic opportunity. 
What America was to the European peasant 
in the eighteenth century is indicated by St. 
John de Crevecceur's description in his Letters 
of an American Farmer, printed before the 
Revolution. In America, he says, the rewards 

of a man's industry 


follow with equal steps the progress of his labor; this 
labor is founded on the basis of self-interest. Can it 
want a stronger allurement? Wives and children, who 
before in vain demanded a morsel of bread, now fat 
and frolicksome, gladly help their father to clear those 
fields whence exuberant crops are to arise to feed them 
all; without any part being claimed either by a despotic 
prince, a rich abbot, or a mighty lord. 

More than a century later the United States 
was still regarded as the land of economic 
opportunity. Mr. Warne, in his book en- 
titled, The Immigrant Invasion, quotes the 
following statement from the United States 
consular reports: 

It would be difficult to state any one particular 
reason why these plain, poor, hard-working people 
from the plains of Russia and the hills and valleys ot 
Austria, should leave their Fatherlands, their humble 
homes, their friends and the traditions of their fore- 
fathers, and scramble for passage on a steamer bound 
for a far-off, strange country. It cannot be that their 
home country is overcrowded, for the majority of them 
crowd into our cities. Undoubtedly, in some cases they 
leave because they love peace and resent forced military 
service. Again, others forsake their old homes, impelled 
by the love of freedom. But of such idealists there are 
probably very few indeed. The vast majority go be- 
cause our country is known to them as the land of 
promise, the land of opportunities greater than their 
country can offer. The great discontent among the 
laboring classes of Europe, stimulated by rumors of 
great prosperity in the United States, is the prime 
cause of this wonderful exodus. 


For a hundred years the peasants of Europe 
have echoed the sentiment of Goethe — 
"America, du hast es besser!" They have come 
to America because, in contrast with Europe, 
America has the best of it. What have they 
found in America? Have they found the 
freedom, the economic opportunity which 
they sought ? What have they contributed to 
America ? How have they modified the national 
character? Have they furthered or retarded 
the great experiment in democracy? These 
are questions of importance in any considera- 
tion of American ideals and institutions. 


The average American is scarcely aware of 
the continuous influx of foreigners. He does 
not see them landing every day at Ellis Island. 
He rarely comes into any direct contact with 
them, either in the great industrial plants or 
in the slums of the great cities where they live 
together in comparative isolation. He does 
not even see many of them on the streets, 
because his streets are not their streets. If 
his attention is called to the question of im- 
migration he is likely to take it as a matter of 
course, as something that has always been 
going on, and he will very likely dismiss the 
whole problem by saying, "Well, we absorb 


these people very easily; our institutions 
Americanize them, make new men of them, 
in the second generation." This, of course, is 
precisely the important question. Do we 
Americanize them? Do they, by any chance, 
or to any extent, de- Americanize us? 

If we wish to get the average American 
really interested in this question, it will be 
well to lay before him a good many statistics. 
Americans think in numbers more easily than 
in any other way. They have a saying that 
" Figures don't lie," and if you can make them 
see the immigrant question in terms of "fig- 
ures" it will at once take on a vividness that 
it could not otherwise have. First of all, 
therefore, let us startle our average American 
by telling him that in 19 10 there were in the 
United States 13,000,000 inhabitants who 
were born in some foreign country. This was 
roughly one-seventh of the total population; 
and this means that if these 13,000,000 people 
were uniformly distributed throughout the 
country, the average American, when he went 
about his business or pleasure, would find 
that one out of every seven persons he met 
was, in respect to birth, nationality, and in- 
herited traditions, to all intents and purposes 
a foreigner. Only a very small per cent, of 
these foreign-born were under fifteen years 
of age when they arrived in the country; and 


the average American may therefore rightly 
be told that he, assisted by six other average 
Americans, is in duty bound to "absorb" and 
"Americanize " one full-grown foreigner; and 
furthermore, at the present rate of immigra- 
tion we can give him only about sixteen years 
to do it in, for at the end of that period we 
shall have another foreigner to turn over to 
him and his six associates. 

If the business were managed in this way, 
the average American would doubtless think 
it a bigger job than he had supposed. But 
another thing which the American does not 
sufficiently realize is that the number of im- 
migrants is constantly increasing. This in- 
crease may be made vivid by the following 
figures. Between 1820 and 19 10 the total 
immigration from foreign countries, excluding 
Canada and Mexico, was about 28,000,000; 
between 1850 and 1910 it was about 25,000,- 
000; between 1880 and 19 10 it was about 
19,000,000; between 1900 and 1910 it was 
about 9,000,000; and between 1905 and 1910 
it was about 5,000,000. If the number of 
immigrants had been as great every year from 
1820 to 1910 as it was in the year 1910, the 
total immigration for the period 1820-19 10 
would have been about 90,000,000 instead of 
28,000,000. Therefore we must tell our aver- 
age American that if the number of immi- 


grants goes on increasing in the future as it 
has done in the past, he and his six asso- 
ciates will be required, as time goes on, to 
complete the process of Americanizing one 
foreigner within considerably less than sixteen 

As a matter of fact, the immigrants are not 
uniformly distributed throughout the coun- 
try; and while it is this fact that enables the 
average American to dismiss the problem as 
one that easily solves itself, it is in reality 
this fact that makes the problem more difficult 
than it would otherwise be. In some parts 
of the country there are almost no immigrants 
at all ; in other parts they are more numerous 
than the native-born. In the state of Kansas, 
for example, the people are almost entirely 
relieved of the task of Americanization. But 
in New York City only about one person in 
five is a native-born of native parents ; the rest 
are either native-born of foreign parents or are 
foreign-born; about 1,500,000, that is to say, 
about one-third of the total population are 
foreign-born. This situation concentrates the 
problem of Americanization in certain areas; 
New York has much more and Kansas much 
less than its proper share of the common task. 
And in recent years there has been a much 
greater concentration of immigrants in certain 
areas than formerly; so that the problem of 

16 231 

Americanization is becoming a more difficult 
one, not only because the number of immi- 
grants is increasing, but also because they are 
being distributed less uniformly among the 
people as a whole. 

The difficulty of Americanizing any given 
number of foreigners, whether they are more 
or less uniformly distributed, will depend also 
upon what kind of foreigners they are. It 
will obviously be easier to make an American 
out of a foreigner who already speaks the 
English language than out of one who does 
not; and easier to make an American out of 
an intelligent than out of an illiterate foreigner, 
whatever his nationality. If we look at im- 
migration from this point of view, we find 
that in the decade ending 1850 about two- 
thirds of the total number of immigrants came 
from Great Britain, Ireland, and Canada, and 
were accordingly English-speaking people; 
whereas in the decade ending 19 10 consider- 
ably less than one-third came from these 
countries. The proportion of foreigners speak- 
ing an alien tongue has therefore constantly 
increased. Besides, the quality of the immi- 
grant has apparently deteriorated. Of the 
immigrants who came prior to the decade 
ending in 1880, only about 3 per cent, were 
illiterate — that is, could neither read nor 
write their own language, whatever it was; 



but of those who have come since 1880, about 
35 per cent, were illiterate. 

There is still another factor which enters 
into the problem of Americanization. A for- 
eigner who comes to live in America will think 
of himself as an American much more readily, 
and will take on American habits and customs 
much more rapidly, if he finds that he is able 
to engage in the same occupations that native 
Americans engage in, to live in the same kind 
of houses, eat the same kind of food, wear 
the same kind of clothes, and enjoy the same 
kind of recreation and amusements. He will 
then feel that he is an American because he 
is getting out of life the same things that 
the average American gets. But if he finds 
himself doing only the more disagreeable 
kinds of work, receiving the lowest wages, 
and consequently living a life which no na- 
tive American will consent to live, then he 
is likely to feel that America is not the prom- 
ised land of opportunity which he supposed 
it to be. Since he gets less than Americans 
get, he will not feel himself an American, 
which is much the same thing as not being 

Now, in fact, this is coming to be more 
and more the case. The immigrant finds him- 
self working in certain industries at wages 
which Americans will not accept, and living 


in certain sections of our great cities under 
conditions that are often worse, and rarely 
better, than those in which he lived in the 
Old World. He finds himself associating 
mainly or altogether with other foreigners like 
himself. Since they do not commonly meet 
or deal with native-born Americans, there is 
slight incentive and no necessity for learning 
the language, or for adopting American cus- 
toms. They often remain foreigners, foreign- 
ers in appearance and foreigners at heart. 
Since America exploits them, they will, so 
far as they can, exploit America. Their aim 
too often is, not to become Americans, but 
to return to Europe when they have acquired 
a little money, which many of them do acquire 
by good luck, or by dint of living the barest 
and most squalid lives. Since 1880, about 
40 per cent, of the total number of immigrants 
have gone back to Europe, and of this 40 
per cent, about two-thirds have remained 
there. These returning immigrants do not 
commonly tell their friends that America is 
the promised land, the land of freedom and 
of equal opportunity. They describe America 
as they have found it — a country dominated 
by capitalists, a sordid bourgeois society with- 
out ideals, a land of " dollar-chasers " where 
wealth controls the government and exploits 
the people. 



The average American would be somewhat 
surprised to learn all this; he would perhaps 
be a little skeptical, because he has always 
understood that the ease with which foreign- 
ers have been absorbed and Americanized is 
one of the seven wonders of the world. Amer- 
ica has been called the " melting-pot " — a con- 
tinuously bubbling sociological kettle into 
which we have grown accustomed to thinking 
you could throw no matter what number or 
variety of foreign elements, without materially 
modifying the resulting product; the end of 
the melting was supposed always to be the 
pure gold of Americanism. This, according 
to the average American, is what comes of 
having true democratic institutions. 

It is true that for the most part the melting- 
pot has worked very well. Until recent years 
the successful transformation of the foreign- 
born population into "typical" Americans 
within a single generation has been one of the 
notable achievements of the United States. 
It is true also that this happy result has been 
due in some measure to the character of our 
institutions; but it has been due far more to 
the absence of those conditions which make 
Americanization difficult — it has been due to 
the dispersion of the immigrants among the 


mass of the people, to the relative excellence 
of the immigrant population, and to the oppor- 
tunity of the immigrant to live the life and 
enjoy the rewards of the ordinary American. 
Generally speaking, these favorable conditions 
prevailed up to a period which may be roughly 
placed in the decade from 1880 to 1890. It 
will be noted that this is also the date which 
marks the end of the era of an abundance ot 
free land, the end of strictly frontier condi- 
tions. The coincidence is not accidental; on 
the contrary, the problem of immigration and 
of the Americanization of the foreign-born 
is intimately connected with the disappear- 
ance of free land, and with the industrial 
transformation which has followed the dis- 
appearance of free land. 

In the earlier period — using this term to 
designate roughly the period before 1880 — 
the immigrant was most likely to be Irish or 
German, or if he was neither of these he was 
almost sure to be Scotch, Welsh, Canadian, or 
English. Not until the decade ending in 1870 
did the Scandinavians begin to come; not 
until the next decade did the immigration from 
southeastern Europe begin. The great Irish 
migration of the period 1840-80 was largely 
due to intolerable conditions at home — to bad 
harvests and to bad laws; and it was, on the 

whole, the most intelligent and energetic of 


the Irish peasantry that came to America. 
The German migration to the United States 
has been pretty constant, but it reached its 
greatest extent between 1850 and 1890. In 
this period, powerful influences in driving 
Germans to America were the failure of , the 
liberal political movements of 1848, the harsh 
military service imposed upon the people, the 
relative lack of industrial opportunity. Aside 
from the Germans, practically all of our im- 
migrants spoke English as their native tongue ; 
and among them, as among the Germans also, 
the percentage of illiterates was very low. In 
addition to this, the number of immigrants in 
this early period who returned to Europe was 
small; and while the fact that an immigrant 
remained permanently in the United States 
does not necessarily mean that he came with 
that intention, the presumption is that he 
did so; and therefore we may say probably 
that a great proportion of the early immigrants 
came to this country with minds favorably 
disposed to becoming American citizens. In 
all of these respects our early immigrants were 
generally, by virtue of their English speech, 
of their intelligence and character, and of the 
state of mind with which they contemplated 
their new home, a class of people whom it 
would not be difficult to Americanize. 

The process of Americanization was greatly 

facilitated by the situation in which the im- 
migrant was likely to find himself after he 
arrived. The Irishman was more disposed 
than any others to settle in the cities, but even 
in the cities opportunity was not lacking. 
Wages were high, and the industrious men 
soon enjoyed a way of life which would have 
been thought luxurious in old Ireland, while 
the clever ones found in local politics an open- 
ing which no one has ever excelled the sons 
of Erin in making the most of. Nevertheless, 
a great many Irish, and the great proportion 
of other immigrants, avoided the cities. They 
either came with the intention of becoming 
farmers or the liberal pre-emption and home- 
stead laws made them such after they ar- 
rived. Indeed, the striking aspect of immi- 
gration before 1890 is the steady flow of the 
new-comers into the great agricultural North- 
west. In the decade between 1840 and 1850 
the total foreign-born population of the North 
Central states was only 641,000, while that 
of the North Atlantic states was 1,304,000; 
whereas in the decade from 1870 to 1880 the 
number in the North Atlantic states was 
2,815,000, while the number in the North 
Central states had risen to 2,917,000. Be- 
sides, in this early period the concentration 
in the cities was much less than it has since 
become; so that, generally speaking, a very 


large percentage of the early immigrants were 
dispersed in the rural agricultural communi- 
ties, or in the small towns which are essentially 
parts of these communities ; and this was par- 
ticularly true of the Germans — that is to say, 
almost the only group that spoke a foreign 

Under these circumstances it was difficult 
for the foreigner to resist the process of Amer- 
icanization, even if he wanted to. I have 
myself seen this process of Americanization 
going on in a way that is fairly typical of the 
earlier period. My own parents were de- 
scended on the one side from Dutch and 
German ancestors who came to New York 
probably in the eighteenth century, and on 
the other side from English and Irish an- 
cestors who came there — I have no idea when. 
My paternal great-grandfather could not 
speak anything but German ; my father could 
not speak anything but English, nor could 
any one have guessed, either from his ap- 
pearance or from any tone or quality in his 
speech, that he was of other than English 
descent. In 1867, having served three years 
in the Civil War, he decided, like thousands 
of others, to abandon the state of his birth 
in order to acquire much better land at a 
much lower price in the new West. He ac- 
cordingly went, first to Illinois, and afterward 


to Iowa, where he bought eighty acres of as 
good farm land as there is anywhere to be 
found, for which he paid, I think, about eight 
dollars an acre, and to this he afterward added 
two other "eighties." It was on this Iowa farm 
that I was born. 

One of my earliest recollections was the ap- 
pearance in our neighborhood, it must have 
been about 1878, of a strange family that came 
to live in the house across the road. To me, a 
"typical" American boy, they seemed out- 
landish folk whom one would naturally avoid 
as suspicious and yet wish to see from some 
safe point of vantage as a curiosity. The 
reason for this primitive attitude of mind 
toward the new-comers was that they were 
Germans who could barely speak a word or 
two of English; and a "typical" little Amer- 
ican boy, who was himself descended from 
English, Irish, Dutch, and German ancestors, 
and whose great-grandfather could not speak 
English, had never in his life seen nor heard of 
a German, and now learned for the first time 
this marvelous thing — namely, that there were 
people in the world who could not talk as he 
did, but spoke a kind of gibberish which it 
was alleged they understood, although no one 
else did. The typical little American boy 
doubted, like Doctor Johnson, whether they 
could really understand themselves; and he 


wondered why they had not been taught to 
speak like other people. 

Naturally enough, the little American boy 
had no desire to learn this strange gibberish, 
nor would he ever make the slightest effort to 
learn it. Afterward, when he became the daily 
companion of the children of this German 
family, and sometimes found himself inveigled 
by them into their house in order to get some- 
thing to eat "between meals," the grown-up 
Kate, of whom he was much afraid, would per- 
haps make it a condition of his getting any- 
thing that he should say, " Bitte, ein Stuck 
Brot." But the little American boy would 
never even try to make these strange sounds; 
not even the great desire for bread and mo- 
lasses (which he always got, anyway, in the 
end) would bring him to it. Never, on any 
occasion, would he say even a single word, 
such as Brot, or Messer, or Tisch; for the truth 
is that the little American boy could see no 
sense in these words, or any good reason for 
learning to pronounce them. 

And indeed, in his own way, the little 
American boy was quite right. He never 
needed to speak German; and no one in that 
Iowa farming community ever needed to 
speak German. To speak nothing but Ger- 
man was as great a handicap as any one could 
well have; and the German family knew this 


better than anybody. They had to learn 
English, and all of them did, except the moth- 
er: The father soon learned to say all that 
he needed to say, in a strange, throaty fashion 
that never lost its interest for the little Amer- 
ican boy, and the children learned more easily 
still to speak English as well as German, and 
no doubt much better in the course of time. 
They went with the little American boys and 
girls to the "district school,'* where they 
studied the same books and played the same 
games and acquired the same manners as 
other boys and girls. Between this German 
family and other families there was no differ- 
ence, except the difference in origin. The man 
paid for his farm, just as my father paid for 
his. He ultimately "retired" — that is, he 
rented his farm and went to live in town on 
the rental of his farm — just as my father did. 
His children married, either the children of 
other German-Americans or else native Amer- 
icans (one of them married my cousin), and 
they now have children of their own who go 
to the schools, join the Methodist or the Bap- 
tist or the Congregational Church, will become 
Democrats or Republicans, as the case may 
be, and probably cannot in any case speak 
any language but English. Such was the proc- 
ess of Americanization throughout the farm- 
ing communities of the great Middle West. 


The process has been much the same in the 
small towns. Many years afterward, the little 
American boy who would not learn German 
(much to his subsequent regret) came to live 
in another Middle- Western state, in a town or 
small city of some fifteen thousand inhabi- 
tants. This town, which we may call X , 

was a typical Western community in the center 
of a rich farming country. It was a prosperous 
"business" town in a small way, and, as 
usually happens, the home of some more pre- 
tentious enterprises. Most of the inhabi- 
tants of this town were "typical" Americans, 
and most of the shops and banks and industrial 
undertakings were owned and controlled by 
them. In the town of X there were, how- 
ever, the usual small number of German- 
Americans — men of German birth who had 
become naturalized American citizens, and 
among these were two or three families, inter- 
related by marriage, who had built up a very 
successful wholesale business. They were, if 
not wealthy in the metropolitan sense, at 
least wealthy in the small-town sense. In a 
business way, the men were intimately asso- 
ciated with the "prominent" and "solid" 
citizens of the place, while in a social way they 
ranked without question among the "best 

One of these men, whom we may call Mr. 

B , I happened to know better than the 

others. He was born in Hanover, as I recall, 
of upper-middle-class parents, was educated 
at a German university, and came to America 
as a young man, where he married the daugh- 
ter of German-born American citizens. As a 
matter of course, both of them spoke English, 

Mrs. B without any trace of a German 

accent, Mr. B with a delightful Teutonic 

tang. Necessarily, in fact, in this American 
community, English was the language which 
they customarily spoke, but they both spoke 
German well, they had twice visited Mr. 

B 's parents in Germany, and they wished, 

naturally enough, that their three children 
might speak German as well as English. This 
they thought would be easily achieved ; the chil- 
dren would learn German from their parents 
and English from their playmates. Mr. and 

Mrs. B did their best, but they failed. 

They spoke German to the children from an 
early age — at least, when they remembered 
that this was what they had decided to do. 
But the children only listened in German; 
they would reply in English. The children 
all went to the high-school, and there they 
studied German, which they disliked as much 
as most American children dislike it, and with 
about the same result. Later they went to 

the university, and there also they studied 


German, and learned about as much of it as 
other American boys and girls learn. And 
the end of it all is that, in spite of the best of 
opportunities and the best of intentions, the 

children of Mr. and Mrs. B cannot readily 

speak ten connected sentences of good Ger- 
man. If they should visit Hanover they 
probably could not hold intelligible converse 
with their grandparents and cousins. They 
are as much Americans as if their ancestors 
had come over on the Mayflower! 

Mr. B is also an American, and must 

remain so. I do not know what he thinks of 
the Great War, and it does not greatly mattei 
— except to himself. He very certainly has 
relatives who have fought with the German 
armies, very likely has some who have died 
in battle. His sympathies may or may not 
be with the Fatherland. The result is the 
same in either case. His fortunes are inex- 
tricably bound up with this American com- 
munity in which he lives. The efforts and 
the associations of thirty years, his business 
career and that of his son, the welfare and 
the happiness of his wife and daughters, tie 
him for good and for ill to this place and 
to these people. Whatever he may think 
in his heart, unless he is an extraordinary 
person indeed he must and he will act so that 
when he goes down the street a dozen friends 


and cronies will give him the kindly smile and 
the intimate "Hello, Fred!" which makes the 
day comfortable and life worth living. 


In the last quarter of a century the immi- 
grant problem, the problem of Americaniza- 
tion, has become a much more difficult one. 
The immigrant is himself of a different type ; 
he comes, or is brought over, for somewhat 
different purposes, and he finds himself, when 
he gets here, in a quite different situation from 
that which has just been described. 

The immigration from Great Britain and 
Ireland has greatly diminished in recent years. 
Ireland has now scarcely more than one-half 
the population it had toward the middle of 
the nineteenth century; and on the other hand, 
thanks to the Irish legislation, it is, or was 
just before the war, a far more desirable place 
to live in. German migration has also fallen 
off. The rapid development of industrial life 
in Germany, together with the extensive social 
legislation favorable to the working-class, re- 
moved many of the conditions which formerly 
drove Germans to leave the Fatherland, while 
a good many of those who do go to South 
America rather than to the United States. 
The place of the Germans has been largely 


taken by the Scandinavians, especially the 
Swedes; but the Swedes, although they have 
in considerable numbers become farmers in 
the Northwest, have more often taken entire 
possession of certain districts, as in Minne- 
sota, where they are not assimilated by the 
native population, but form alien communities 
preserving their language and customs. 

The striking fact, however, is that relatively 
few of the present-day immigrants become 
farmers. For the most part the best lands 
have been taken. Iowa land which in 1867 
was purchased for #8 per acre is now sold, 
some of it, for $425 per acre. The immigrant 
finds, therefore, that he must either become 
a renter on this good land, paying nearly as 
much per acre in yearly rent as the land cost 
fifty years ago, or else he must go where land 
is cheaper because it is more remote or of 
poorer quality. In either case, and in spite 
of the high prices paid for farm products, when 
rent or interest is paid there is often little left 
for the necessities of life, and nothing for the 
luxuries. In addition to this, the farmers of 
the Northwest find that the price which they 
can get for their wheat is somehow determined 
by the great milling corporations of Minne- 
apolis, while the meat-packers of Chicago, St. 
Louis, and Kansas City manipulate in their 
own interests the price of hogs and cattle. 
17 247 

Inevitably, therefore, the agricultural com- 
munities no longer attract immigrants as they 
once did. The situation is vividly revealed 
in the simple fact that whereas in 1850 the 
average price of farm land in the United States 
was only #11.33 P er acre, and in 1900 was still 
only #19.30, in 1910 it had risen to #39.50, 
having more than doubled in ten years. These 
facts find their complement in the statistics 
of immigration distribution since 1880. It 
will be remembered that the total foreign- 
born population in the North Central states 
(the distinctively agricultural states) steadily 
increased before that date until it numbered 
2,917,000 as against 2,815,000 for the North 
Atlantic states (the distinctively industrial 
states). Since 1880 the great increase has 
been chiefly in the latter rather than in the 
former region. In 19 10 the figures for the 
North Central states were 4,690,000, while 
those for the North Atlantic states were 
6,676,000. But this does not tell the whole 
story. After the year 1890 the increase in 
the North Central states was very slight — 
amounting to less than a million in the twenty 
years from 1890 to 19 10. And this slight in- 
crease was evidently largely in the cities. Dur- 
ing the decade from 1890 to 1900 there was 
actually a decrease of foreign-born population 
in every one of the North Central states except 


North Dakota, Minnesota, and Illinois. Dur- 
ing the same decade, out of a total increase ot 
1,092,000 in the foreign-born population, all 
but 152,000 of this increase was in the six 
states of New York, Pennsylvania, Massa- 
chusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illi- 
nois — that is to say, the most highly indus- 
trialized states, with the exception of Illinois, 
in the Union. The meaning of this is clear; 
it means that in the twenty years before 19 10 
the great mass of the immigrant population, 
instead of being widely distributed over large 
areas and among the agricultural communities, 
was concentrated in the great industrial cen- 
ters — New York, Pittsburg, the coal-mining 
regions of Pennsylvania, and the manufact- 
uring towns of New Jersey, Connecticut, and 

A second characteristic of recent immigra- 
tion is that the immigrants who come in such 
large numbers to work in the Bethlehem steel- 
plant or the New England cotton-mills are 
less likely to be English-speaking people, less 
likely to be German. In the decade ending 
1880 the immigration from Italy, Austria- 
Hungary, Russia, and the Balkans was not 
more than 3 per cent, of the total; in the 
decade ending 1910 it was about 36 per cent, 
of the total. In 1870 the number of Slavs 

and Italian laborers in the anthracite coaJ 


region of Pennsylvania was 306, while the 
number of English-speaking laborers was 105,- 
000; in 1910 the number of Slavs and Italians 
was 177,803, while the number of English- 
speaking laborers was only 82,000. In the dec- 
ade ending 1910 only about 28 per cent, of 
the total immigration was of English-speaking 
stocks, and in the same period the number of 
illiterates had risen to nearly 40 per cent. 

The ignorant peasant or laborer or vaga- 
bond of any country, particularly of south- 
eastern Europe, may well imagine America 
to be the land where life is bright and wealth 
easily obtained. The ignorant are certainly 
those who can be most easily made to think 
so by those who are interested in getting them 
to come. Undoubtedly the hopeless lot of 
many people in such countries as Russia and 
Italy, in parts of Austria-Hungary, in Greece 
and Bulgaria and Rumania, predispose them, 
at all hazards, to try their fortunes in the New 
World. But it is also true that much of the 
present-day immigration is "induced" or 
"stimulated" by those who have their own 
interests to serve. This has always been true 
to some extent. In the earlier period land 
companies desiring to sell their land, state 
governments wishing to populate their empty 
stretches of territory, and European govern- 
ments willing to rid their countries of useless 


or vicious classes, have all contributed to swell 
the tide of immigration. 

Yet this sort of activity was probably never 
so notable, or so bad in its results, as now. 
On this point the United States Commissioner- 
General of Immigration, referring to the enor- 
mous increase of immigration from southern 
and southeastern Europe, has this to say in 
his report for 19 10: 

It is, to a very large extent, induced, stimulated, 
artificial immigration; and hand in hand with it (as 
a part, indeed, of the machinations of the promoters, 
steerers, runners, sub-agents, and usurers, more or less 
directly connected with steamship lines, the great 
beneficiaries of immigration) run plans for the ex- 
ploitation of the ignorant classes which often place 
upon our shores large numbers of aliens, who, if the 
facts were only known at the time, are worse than 
destitute, are burdened with obligations in which they 
and all their relatives are parties, debts secured with 
mortgages on such small holdings as they and their 
relatives possess, and on which usurious interest must 
be paid. Pitiable indeed is their condition, and pitiable 
it roust remain unless good fortune accompanies the 
alien while he is struggling to exist and is denying 
himself the necessaries of decent living in order to clear 
himself of the incubus of accumulated debt. 

These helpless people, encumbered with 
debt, ignorant of English, many of them un- 
able to read or write any language, ready tc 
be herded into the first job that offers, are 


precisely the human material which many of 
the great manufacturing establishments are 
looking for. The competitive system of in- 
dustry forces employers to look at labor as a 
commodity to be purchased as cheaply as pos- 
sible and to be thrown aside when it is ho 
longer worth the cost. Outside of business 
hours the average American employer is a 
humane and generous man; but he cannot 
afford, or thinks that he cannot afford, to 
bring sentiment, not even perhaps the senti- 
ment of humanity, into his business ; and he 
has not even the interest or the pride of own- 
ership which would induce the master of a 
slave gang to see that his chattels were well fed 
and comfortable. His responsibility to the 
laborers ends when he has paid them the stipu- 
lated wage, and he somehow persuades him- 
self that while the plant and the product be- 
long to him, and must accordingly be the 
objects of his constant solicitude, the laborer 
does not belong to him and is therefore no 
concern of his ; it is with the labor only, and 
with its price, that he has anything to do. 
Noblesse oblige, that sentiment which so often 
induces the wealthy American to bestow his 
wealth upon public institutions devoted to the 
welfare of humanity, is singularly absent in his 
dealings with the actual men and women who 
contribute to the production of that wealth. 


The intelligent English-speaking American 
laborer understands this; and since the em- 
ployer considers that his business is to buy 
labor as cheaply as possible, the laborer con- 
siders that he must sell his labor as dearly as 
possible. The long history of the labor-unions 
in the United States is the story of how in- 
telligent labor has tried to organize so that 
the individual laborer may deal with the in- 
dividual capitalist on equal terms and force 
him to pay a decent living wage. For many 
kinds of skilled labor the labor-union has been 
an effective means of keeping wages at a rea- 
sonably high level. But the more successful 
the unions are the more interested (falsely, 
no doubt) the employers are in obtaining a 
supply of labor that is not controlled by the 
unions. Nothing is therefore so well suited 
to the purposes of those great industries which 
require a great deal of unskilled labor as a 
continuous influx of ignorant, destitute, and 
helpless foreigners. It is this class of immi- 
grants, coming largely from southeastern Eu- 
rope, that they welcome; and these new- 
comers are steadily driving native American 
labor, as well as English-speaking immigrant 
labor, out of one industry after another. Slavs 
and Italians are replacing Irish, Scotch, Welsh, 
German, and English workers in the anthracite 
coal-mining industry; Poles and Armenians 


are replacing the Irish in the making of collars 
and cuffs; Poles and Italians are replacing 
the Irish and the English in the woolen, 
worsted, and cotton industries; Russians and 
Italians are replacing Germans in the manu- 
facture of men's and children's clothing. And 
so it is in many other industries. 

The new-comers drive out the native la- 
borers not only because they are not con- 
trolled by the labor-unions, but because they 
are willing to live, or cannot in their ig- 
norance and dire need refuse to live, in a 
way which the native will not endure. Mr. 
Warne, in his book entitled, The Immigrant 
Invasion, contrasts the standard of life of 
the English-speaking laborer in the anthra- 
cite coal-mining region with that of the 
Slav and Italian laborer. The English-speak- 
ing laborers of the period before 1880, he 
says — 

wanted a home, with a wife and children and some 
degree of comfort. In that home he wanted none but 
his own immediate family or near relatives. For the 
rent of a neat, two-story frame house with a porch 
and yard he usually paid about four dollars a month. 
He wanted a carpet in the best room, pictures on the 
wall, and the home to be otherwise attractive and com- 
fortable. . . . His wife he liked to see comfortably and 
fairly well dressed. For his children he had ambitions 
which required their attendance at the little red school- 
house on the hill. ... In brief, the standard of living 


of the English-speaking races was a comparatively 
high one, which needed for its maintenance a compara- 
tively high wage. 

In striking contrast with all this is the mode of 
life which the Slav and Italian brought with them 
into the region. . . . They came in batches, shipped 
by the car-load to the coal-fields. When they arrived 
they seemed perfectly aimless. It was hard for them 
to make themselves understood. They would land 
at the depot, and . . . spend the first night on the plat- 
form, or in a stable on the hay. . . . Many were so poor 
that they came in old army suits, their belongings all 
in one big bundle. . . . These Slavs and Italians do not 
object to living in a one-room hut built by their own 
hands on the hillside, of driftwood gathered at spare 
moments from along the highway, and roofed with tin 
from discarded powder-cans. In not a few of their 
living-places the most conspicuous articles of furniture 
are bunks arranged in rows along the side of the wall. 
They are not particular with whom or how many they 
live, except that usually they want them to be of their 
own nationality. . . . Out of a wage averaging the year 
round about thirty dollars a month many of the Slavs 
and Italians easily save from fifteen to twenty dollars 
a month. The Slav with a family cannot save so much, 
but in not a few cases even with a wife and children 
his slightly higher cost of living is met by the wife 
taking in "boarders." The family income is also in- 
creased through the work of the wife. . . . She usually 
goes about barefooted and bareheaded even in the 
streets. . . . Besides all this, to these workers children 
are an asset instead of a liability. 

Under such conditions as these, in which 
the immigrants are concentrated in little com- 


pact communities around great industrial 
plants like the anthracite coal-mines and the 
Bethlehem steel-works, or in the slums of our 
great cities, the Americanization of the for- 
eigner becomes increasingly difficult. He does 
not learn the English language, because he 
does not need to; he does not associate with 
Americans, because they do not live in his 
community; he feels no high regard for Amer- 
ica because he soon learns that it gives him 
neither the opportunities nor the rewards 
which Americans have. A great number of 
these people come to America not to become 
Americans, but to save a little of their des- 
perately earned money in order to return to 
the Old World. The children of those who 
do remain very likely learn English — after a 
fashion; but they too often learn English as 
an American in Germany learns German, not 
as a language which he intends to make his 
own, but as an instrument which may prove 
temporarily useful. In organizing the army 
under the selective draft it was found that in 
many of these foreign communities from 60 
to 80 per cent, of the draftees could not speak 
English, and in many companies it was nec- 
essary to teach the men the simple words and 
phrases of the drill-book before undertaking 
to train them in the elementary movements of 
military tactics. They went to war to fight 


for American ideals, often enough vaguely- 
wondering what they were, or sullenly in- 
quiring what benefits they promised to the 
exploited poor. 

Mr. H. G. Wells, who is at all events a keen 
observer, has this to say in his book on The 
Future of America: 

At present, if we disregard sentiment, if we deny 
the alleged necessity of gross flattery whenever one 
writes of America for Americans, and state the bare 
facts of the case, they amount to this: That America, 
in the urgent process of individualistic industrial de- 
velopment, in the feverish haste to get through with 
the material possibilities, is importing a large portion 
of the peasantry of central and eastern Europe, and 
converting it into a practically illiterate industrial pro- 
letariat. In doing this it is doing something that, 
however different in spirit, differs from the slave trade 
in its earlier history only in the narrower gap between 
employer and laborer. In the "colored" population 
America has already ten million descendants of un- 
assimilated and perhaps unassimilable labor immi- 
grants. . . . And I have a foreboding that in the mixed 
flood of workers that pours into America by the million 
to-day, in the torrent of ignorance, against which that 
heroic being, the schoolmarm, battles at present all 
unaided by men, there is to be found the possibility of 
another dreadful separation of class and kind, a sepa- 
ration perhaps not so profound, but far more universal. 
One sees the possibility of a rich industrial and mercan- 
tile aristocracy of western European origin dominating 
a dark-haired, darker-eyed, uneducated proletariat 
from central and eastern Europe. 


This is the danger as Mr. Wells sees it. There 
is, no doubt, much exaggeration in the picture, 
if it is to be taken as a picture of America as 
a whole. Mr. Wells, besides being given to 
over-emphasis, sees that part of America which 
travelers mostly see — the Eastern part more 
than the Western, the cities and industrial 
centers more than the rural and agricultural 
communities. But this is just what the im- 
migrant sees also, and the America which the 
immigrant sees is the whole of America for 
him. Whatever we may think, for the great 
mass of the foreign-born population America 
no longer stands, as it once stood, for the 
ideal of liberty and equality. When the im- 
migrant thinks of America he thinks of New 
York with its palaces on Fifth Avenue and 
the massed squalor of its East Side slums; 
or else he thinks of the untold millions which 
our public-spirited billionaires have accumu- 
lated by the aid of men working twelve hours 
a day for wages that would barely keep a 
slave in sleek condition. When they think 
of America they think of the bloated bourgeois 
Republic; and so their minds, seeking for the 
everlasting ideal of democracy, seeking for 
the "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness," turn to bolshevism and the class 

What Mr. Wells sees, and what the immi- 

grant sees, is not the whole of America. The 
great heart of America, its humanity and ideal- 
ism, its sanity and common sense, its attach- 
ment to the old conceptions of liberty and 
equal opportunity — these are to be found still 
(or will be, let us hope, when the unreason of 
the war frenzy shall have subsided) in the 
great mass of the people outside the large 
cities, in the quiet towns and villages and farm- 
ing communities. What Mr. Wells and the 
immigrant see is not the whole of America. 
We must have faith to believe that it is not 
America at all. But at least it is a tendency 
in American life, and it is a tendency which 
must be recognized, and, being recognized, 
must be combated. If this is not so, then 
America, in any ideal or spiritual sense, and 
all she has meant for the world, will cease 
to be. 

The problem of immigration is but part of 
a larger problem: it is part of the problem 
created by the disappearance of free land, by 
the rapid industrialization of America, and 
by the concentration of wealth and industrial 
power; it is part of the problem of industrial 
democracy — a problem which we, in company 
with the rest of the world, have yet to solve. 
That the United States — even the fortunate 
United States — must meet this problem has 
not escaped the penetrating eye of America's 


most competent as well as ner most friendly 
critic. In the latest edition of The American 
Commonwealth Lord Bryce has this to say: 

There is a part of the Atlantic where the westward- 
speeding steam-vessel always expects to encounter fogs. 
On the fourth or fifth day of the voyage while still in 
bright sunlight, one sees at a distance a long, low, 
dark-gray line across the bows, and is told that this is 
the first of the fog-banks which have to be traversed. 
Presently the vessel is upon the cloud, and rushes into 
its chilling embrace, not knowing what perils of ice- 
bergs may be shrouded within its encompassing gloom. 

So America, in her swift onward progress, sees, 
looming on the horizon and now no longer distant, a 
time of mists and shadows, wherein dangers may be 
concealed whose form and magnitude she can scarcely 
yet conjecture. As she fills up her Western regions with 
inhabitants, she sees the time approach when all the 
best land . . . will have been occupied, and when the 
land now under cultivation will have been so far ex- 
hausted as to yield scantier crops even to more ex- 
pensive culture. Although transportation may also 
have become cheaper, the price of food will rise; farms 
will be less easily obtained and will need more capital 
to work them with profit; the struggle for existence 
will become more severe. And while the outlet which 
the West now provides for the overflow of the great 
cities will have become less available, the cities will 
have grown immensely more populous; pauperism . . . 
may be more widely spread; and even if wages do not 
sink work may be less abundant. In fact, the chronic 
evils and problems of old societies and crowded coun- 
tries, such as we see them to-day in Europe, will have 
reappeared in this new soil, while the demand of the 


multitude to have a larger share in the nation's collec- 
tive wealth may well have grown more insistent. 

High economic authorities pronounce that the be- 
ginnings of this time of pressure lie not more than 
twenty years ahead. ... It may be the time of trial for 
democratic institutions. 

One may well contrast or compare this 
picture of the future of America, drawn by 
one of the most intelligent and one of the 
sanest minds of our age, as well as one of the 
best informed in all matters respecting Amer- 
ica, with the picture drawn by Mr. Wells. 
The words are different, but the picture, al- 
though less highly colored, is much the same. 
Into this time of pressure described by Mr. 
Bryce, the pressure created in every country 
which undergoes the industrial revolution, the 
United States is already passing. What dan- 
gers shall we encounter? With what prepara- 
tion, in intelligence and knowledge, in high 
courage and in civic virtue, will we meet 
them ? 



WHEN we say, with easy confidence, that 
the rapidity with which the immigrants 
are Americanized is due to our "institutions," 
we have in mind, among other things, the 
public schools. If it is pointed out that in 
many places the process of Americanization is 
slow and incomplete, or that it does not go on 
at all, we are likely to say, "The remedy for 
this is education." In America, while we have 
not too much respect for the educated, we 
have unlimited faith in education. What- 
ever ills democracy may be suffering from, the 
reply is always forthcoming, "The remedy for 
that is more and better education." 

This attitude of mind is at bottom a sound 
one, in so far as it leads to a serious and in- 
telligent interest in the schools — and it is not 
by any means confined to America. \ Wher- 
ever democracy exists, or wherever intelligent 


people desire to have it exist, there the de- 
sirability of free education for the masses is 
likely to be insisted upon. The ruling class 
must be educated in some fashion; it^maybe 
badly educated, but at least it? must have the 
sort of education that is suited to the kind of 
government that is in its keeping. If the ideal 
of government is an absolute monarchy, or a 
landowning aristocracy, or an ecclesiastical 
priesthood, or a combination of all three, then 
no doubt education should be confined to 
these classes. But if the idea that the people 
are to rule is frankly accepted, then it is ob- ] 
vious that the people should be as intelligent 
and well informed as possible; from which it 
follows that the state should provide free edu- 
cation for all its citizens.! 

This, at all events, is the theory which has 
accompanied the spread of democracy in Eu- 
rope. Whereas in the Middle Ages and early 
modern period education was largely confined 
to the clergy, in the later modern period, and 
in proportion as the ideal of democracy has 
made headway, the State has replaced the 
Church in the control of education, and free 
public schools for the people have been widely 
established. Which was cause and which was 
effect in this process cannot be inquired into 
here; but, generally speaking, it is true that 
the ideal of popular education under the con- 
is 263 

trol of the state is as commonly accepted now 
as the ideal of education controlled by and 
limited to the clergy was in the Middle Ages. 
In this respect, as in respect to the idea of 
free government itself, the United States was 
in some measure a pioneer, and it has been 
in some measure an example to European 
countries. The quality and the smooth work- 
ing of democracy in America have been com- 
monly associated with the low percentage of 
illiteracy and the general diffusion of an ele- 
mentary education among the people; and this 
happy situation, it has been assumed, is due 
to the existence everywhere, even in remote 
country districts, of the free public school. 
The United States has in fact been held up 
as a shining example of what a true democracy 
does in the way of educating its citizens, and 
of what an educated citizenship can do in 
the way of making democracy a success. 


Serious concern for education was one of 
the chief characteristics of the Puritans who 
settled New England in the seventeenth cen- 
tury. The type of education which they 
wished to promote was indeed of a limited 
and very carefully guarded sort. Like all 
men who have a conscious and reasoned theory 


of the ideal commonwealth, they wanted for 
their people an education which, by confirming 
the theory, would constitute a bulwark for the 
support and the preservation of the common- 
wealth; and as the Puritan Commonwealth 
was founded upon a definite theological creed 
and very precise notions of conduct, the 
schools which they established were devoted 
mainly to inculcating the accepted ideas of t 
religion, politics, and morality. But at all 
events the Puritan desired that all children 
should learn to read and write, if only that they 
might read the Bible and copy its verses; 
and the novel and important aspect of his 
interest in education was that in order to 
accomplish these ends he adopted the practice 
of establishing schools in every community* 
at the public expense. 

In a community where the Church was a 
part of the State, the training of the clergy 
was obviously a matter of primary importance. 
Hence the Puritans had scarcely landed in 
Massachusetts Bay before they took steps 
to found a college for that purpose, and six 
years later Harvard College was in fact estab- 
lished. The existence of a college called for 
secondary schools. One of the earliest of 
these, and the first school in America to be 
supported by public taxation, was founded 
at Dorchester in 1639. It was ordered by the 


town that twenty pounds be raised and " paid 
to such schoolmaster as shall undertake to 
teach English, Latin, and other tongues, also 
writing. The said schoolmaster to be chosen 
from time to time by the freemen." Within 
the first twenty years of Massachusetts his- 
tory six grammar-schools had been founded 
in that colony. 

But the founders of Massachusetts were 
not indifferent to primary-schools. Their 
ideal in this respect (it was not found possible 
to realize it fully) is clearly stated in the 
famous order of the General Court, issued in 
1647, which laid the foundation of the com- 
mon school system in the province, and has 
been called the "mother of all our school laws." 

It being one of the chief projects of that old deluder 
Satan to keep men from the knowledge of the Script- 
ures, as in former times by keeping them in an unknown 
tongue, so in these latter times by persuading from the 
use of tongues, . . . 

It is therefore resolved. That every Township in this 
jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the 
number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith ap- 
point one within their Town to teach such children as 
shall resort to him to write and read, whose wages shall 
be paid either by the parents or masters of such chil- 
dren, or by the inhabitants in general ... as the major 
part . . . shall appoint. . . . 

It is further ordered, That when any Town shall in- 
crease to the number of one hundred householders, 


they shall set up a grammar school, the master thereof 
being able to instruct youth, so far as they may be 
fitted, for the university: Provided, that if any Town 
neglect the performance hereof above one year, that 
every such Town shall pay five pounds to the next 
school until they shall perform this order. 

The Massachusetts school system, as actu- 
ally established and as projected in this law, 
is in all essential respects the model upon 
which the school system of the United States 
has been fashioned. These essential points 
are, first, a free primary-school in every local * 
community to teach the rudiments of knowl- 
edge to all children who may attend ; second, 
a grammar-school (that is to say, a secondary, 
or, as we say, a "high" school) in every com- 
munity to teach the elements of general cult- 
ure and to fit youths for the university; and 
finally a college or university to train men for 
the professions or to give them a "liberal 
education/* The Massachusetts law did not 
require either the primary or the secondary 
schools to be supported by public taxation, 
nor did it require the secondary schools to 
be "free" schools. But in practice, both in 
New England and later throughout the United 
States, both primary and secondary schools 
have come to be free and publicly supported. 
Harvard University has remained a privately 
endowed institution, and it still requires of 


its pupils the payment of high fees. In the 
East most universities, among them some of 
the best in the country, have followed Harvard 
in this respect ; but in the region west of the 
Alleghanies the universities are commonly 
"state universities ,, — that is, they are inte- 
gral parts of the system of free public schools, 
being supported by taxation and controlled 
by public authority. 

The establishment of free schools was made 
an easy thing in America, as many things 
have been made easy, by the existence of an 
abundance of public land. From an early 
date the New England colonies took advan- 
tage of this fact by reserving, in the town 
grants, a certain part of the land as an endow- 
ment for schools. The example of New Eng- 
land became at a later date the settled prac- 
tice in all the newer parts of the United 
States. In the Northwest Ordinance, passed 
by Congress in 1787 for the government of the 
territory north of the Ohio River, there was 
included the following clause : " Religion, mo- 
rality, and knowledge being necessary to good 
government and the happiness of mankind, 
schools and the means of education shall for- 
ever be encouraged." The clause was not 
mandatory, but it has proved something more 
than a mere pious hope. In all the states 
formed out of the public domain the common 


practice has been to make extensive reserva- 
tions of lands as an endowment for public 
education. Such lands have indeed too often 
been badly administered, and in some cases 
largely diverted from their original purpose by 
political jobbery; but the existence of free 
schools in all the newer states, from the 
little "district" schools in every township, up 
through the graded grammar and high-schools 
in every county or urban community, to the 
state university, is due in no small measure 
to this practice of reserving public lands as 
an educational endowment. 

That such reservations were so generally 
and so generously made for this purpose 
meant, of course, that the people who settled 
the West were themselves seriously interested 
in education. Few pioneer settlements, even 
the most primitive, were long without schools. 
The little log school-house was often the first 
public building erected, frequently serving the 
double purpose of religious worship and secu- 
lar instruction; and, as the community grew, 
additional school-houses were built. The es- 
tablishment of schools, in fact, kept pace with 
the progress of settlement, and by the middle 
of the nineteenth century free elementary 
education, supported by public taxation, had 
been established in practically every part of 
the country. 


When the pioneer used the word "educa- 
tion," he did not, of course, mean quite what 
the college professor means by it. The pioneer 
wanted his children to be "educated" in the 
sense that he wanted them not to be illiterate 
— he wanted them to be able to read, write, 
and "do arithmetic." He wanted them to be 
able to do these things even if he could not 
do them himself; in fact, if he could not read 
and write himself, he was likely to want par- 
ticularly that his children should be able to 
read and write. The underlying motive which 
has given the people of the United States so 
keen an interest in "education" is indeed an 
essential part of their democratic habit of 
mind. No man takes it as a matter of course 
that his status is fixed, or that his children 
must necessarily be what he has been. It is 
rather a matter of course that a man's children 
may do something more and achieve some- 
thing better than he has found possible. All 
that they need is a "better chance" than he 
has had; and it is, above all, "education" that 
will give them this better chance. 

Nowhere has this feeling been more common 
or more intense than in the newer Western 
parts of the country, where the development 
of the community has been so rapid, where 
class divisions have been relatively non-exist- 
ent, and where lack of training has been the 


chief bar to individual advancement. In the 
frontier communities, therefore, the devotion 
to education was wide-spread, intense, and 
extremely practical in its object. Every one 
wanted the boys and girls to have a "better 
chance." All boys and girls must, as a matter 
of course, learn to read, to write, and to do 
sums. But in any community, as soon as that 
came to be a common achievement, so that 
to be illiterate was almost a disgrace, to be 
able to read and write and "do arithmetic" 
was not enough. If a boy was to have his 
"better chance" he must go to a "higher" 
school where he could learn to do arithmetic 
better than his father, and study algebra and 
grammar, which his father perhaps never 
studied, or perhaps learn a language, or read 
books which his father never heard of. To the 
father who never went to a "high-school" this 
was very wonderful — this was to "have a 
chance." But to the boy himself the high- 
school became in turn a matter of course ; and 
for his boy, who must also have his better 
chance, nothing would serve but a college — 
the boy must go to a university and become a 
"real scholar," so that he would have every 
opportunity that any man could have. 

To the people of the United States, and par- 
ticularly to the people of the newer regions of 
the Middle and Far West, where indeed the 


American system of public schools has re- 
ceived its most characteristic form, education 
has essentially always meant just this: That 
the boy, and the girl, too, must, if possible, 
learn something which their parents never 
knew in order that they might have a better 
chance to rise in the world than their parents 
had. It is this attitude of mind that largely 
explains the otherwise astonishing fact that 
the people of these Western states, the great 
majority of them relatively poor and unedu- 
cated, have been willing to pay taxes for the 
support of high-schools and universities. The 
number of boys and girls who ever go to the 
university, or even to the high-school, is very 
small in comparison with the total population. 
One might suppose that the average man 
would regard these higher schools as "aristo- 
cratic" institutions and be inclined to think 
that they should be supported by the people 
whose children took advantage of them. But 
the fact is that no one could be sure who was 
an "average man"; no one could be sure that 
his children would not be among the favored 
few; every man could at least have a reason- 
able hope that his children would graduate 
from the high-school at least, and perhaps 
(who could tell ?) even from the university. 

It is this reasonable hope that made people 
willing to support free higher as well as free 


primary education. It is this reasonable hope 
that finds succinct expression in the constitu- 
tion of the state of Indiana, which was drafted 
in 1 8 19, and which may be taken as represent- 
ing the common practice: 

It shall be the duty of the General Assembly, as 
soon as circumstances will permit, to provide by law 
for a general system of education ascending in regular 
graduation from township schools to state university, 
wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to all. 

In this spirit the Western States established 
their public schools. And to-day it is a rare 
country district which has not its little school- 
house at the crossroads within easy walking- 
distance of every home; a rare town which 
has not its graded grammar- and high-school ; 
a rare state which has not within its borders 
at least one university and one or more col- 
leges and academies; and almost all of the 
lower schools, as well as a great number of the 
universities, are free schools, are maintained 
by public taxation and controlled by the 
public authority. 

The public-school system of the United 
States is rightly regarded as one of the most 
characteristic, as one of the essential parts of 
American democratic institutions. What kind 
of education do these schools furnish? How 
do they serve the purposes of democracy ? 



The purpose of the public-school system is, 
after all, social rather than strictly intellectual. 
It is only in the college or the university, and 
sometimes not even in them, that a pupil 
can become "educated" in the academic sense. 
Only an insignificant part of the people ever 
see the inside of a college. In after-life it is 
difficult to distinguish the high-school gradu- 
ate from one who never got beyond the gram- 
mar grade, or a university graduate from one 
who never got beyond the high-school. The 
public schools are in fact a socialistic enter- 
prise on a grand scale; and the employment of 
some six hundred thousand teachers, and the 
expenditure of over half a billion dollars of 
public money annually in such an enterprise, 
can be justified only if the result is an ad- 
vantage to the community as a whole rather 
than primarily to the individual concerned. 
In theory there is perhaps no necessary op- 
position between the advantage of the in- 
dividual and that of the community. But 
there may be in practice; and since the ad- 
vantage of the schools to the community 
can come only through the individuals who 
pass through them, it is and must remain a 
fundamental assumption that the chief pur- 
pose of free education in a democratic soci- 


ety is to make good citizens rather than good * 

This primary purpose was long ago expressed, 
in the seventeenth century, by the Puritans 
of New Haven, who founded schools "for the 
better training up of youth in this town, that 
through God's blessing they may be fitted for 
public service hereafter, either in church or 
commonwealth." When, at a later time, the 
Church was no longer thought to be a neces- 
sary part of the State, the term "Church" was 
left out of this formula ; but with that slight 
change the Puritan formula fitted nicely 
enough into the democratic political philoso- 
phy to which America has always held. That 
philosophy was formulated in the eighteenth 
century, and the idea of free schools, sup- 
ported and controlled by the state, was an 
essential part of it. 

Eighteenth-century political philosophy was 
fashioned mainly in France at a time when the 
progressive minds of the age found the welfare 
of men hampered by arbitrary government and 
by the outworn and senseless privileges en- 
joyed by nobles and clergy and monopolistic 
industrial corporations. They reasoned, there- 
fore, that the wretched state of the great mass 
of the people was due, not to native viciousncss, 
but to bad laws and customs. If you would 
make men better, more prosperous, and more 


happy, they said, you must first of all give 
them freedom; you must abolish arbitrary 
government and class privilege and, by con- 
ferring political and personal and industrial 
liberty, give every man a chance to make the 
most of himself. But this was not all. There 
would still remain certain inequalities. One 
man would be born intelligent, another stupid ; 
one would have an excellent home-training, 
another would lack this training. These in- 
equalities, arising from difference in capacity 
and from advantages of birth, it was the 
business of the state to remove as far as 
possible. According to eighteenth-century 
political philosophy, it was, therefore, the 
duty of the state to establish a system of 
free elementary schools, through which all 
citizens would pass, and which would mold 
them all to some degree of equality. A uni- 
form education, it was hoped, would in time 
give to all citizens that common capacity 
and that similarity in civic virtue which 
would be the sure foundation of genuine de- 
mocracy and of steady progress toward human 

The generous expectations of eighteenth- 
century philosophers have not been fully real- 
ized. Neither free government nor free public 
schools which have come with free govern- 
ment have brought about the reign of felicity 


or the regeneration of the human race. But 
the modern faith in public education, so far 
as that faith still persists, rests upon the same 
general philosophy; and it is in the United 
States, where the philosophy was never so 
consciously elaborated as in France, that it 
has been most effectively confirmed in prac- 
tice. Not in any ideal way, but in a prac- 
tically effective way, the public schools in the 
United States do make for equality; they do 
in some measure enable men to enter upon the 
economic struggle for existence on more equal 
terms ; they do in some measure tend to shape 
the mind and manners of men to a common 
social type; they do, most of all, bridge the 
gap between rich and poor, the well dressed 
and the shabby, the soft mannered and the 
brutal, by throwing them together at an im- 
pressionable age and forcing them to compete 
or co-operate in common tasks and common 

The most characteristic and the most im- 
portant part of the public-school system is 
that which is comprised in the primary and 
grammar grades. These are the people's 
schools in the strict sense; for throughout the 
country these are almost the only elementary 
schools, and to these schools practically all the 
children go. In any typical community there 
is every reason for parents sending their chil- 


dren to the public schools, and, except perhaps 
in the case of strict Catholics, none for refusing 
or neglecting to do so. It costs them nothing 
— in some places even the text-books, paper, 
pencils, pens, and ink are furnished gratis. 
The hard-worked mother of a family often 
finds other than educational advantages in 
turning over her children to the safe guardian- 
ship of the schoolmistress from nine to four 
o'clock five days in the week. Besides, it is 
taken as a matter of course that a child shall 
"go to school" from the age of five, at least, 
until the age of twelve or fourteen. In any 
small community a family that does not send 
Jane and Tom to school is a marked family — 
the neighbors wish to know the reason, and 
if none is forthcoming they pity the children 
as unfortunates and condemn the parents as 

To these schools, then, all the children of a 
community come, and there they learn — in a 
routine way, indeed — the essentials. They 
learn to add and subtract and divide, and to 
do fractions and compute interest. There 
they learn a little about the geography of the 
world, they learn to name the states of the 
Union, their capitals, chief towns and rivers, 
and their leading industries. They learn a little 
English grammar, are corrected when they 

say "I seen" or "he has went" (although very 


rarely when they say "he don't "), and make 
some progress in writing, and in the mastery 
of the intricacies of English spelling. There 
they learn the elements of American history, 
and of the form and working of local and 
national government. They learn all this, 
and this is much for all the people to learn. 
It means that in any average town or country 
community it is a rare thing to meet any 
person who cannot sign his name to a sub- 
scription, or write a letter to a friend, read a 
newspaper, or a book out of the circulating 
library. It means that the great majority 
of the people know something about the coun- 
tries of the world, and more about their own 
country, about its history, about its govern- 
ment, about its public men and political par- 
ties and the issues that divide them. For all 
the people to learn this means that all have 
that rudimentary knowledge which makes the 
effort to earn a living much easier than it 
would otherwise be, and that intelligent in- 
terest in general affairs without which demo- 
cratic government would be impossible except 
in name. 

It is important that all the people learn 
these things; it is quite as important that they 
learn them together and in the same way; 
for in learning them together and in the same 
way they learn a good many other things 
19 279 

besides. The children of the poor and the 
rich, the cultured and the ignorant, the good 
and the bad, assemble in the same room and 
study the same books and recite the same 
lessons. Johnny, the banker's son, sits in the 
seat next to Jake, the butcher's boy, or Gertie, 
the washerwoman's daughter. In the free- 
masonry of youth they give each other the 
wink, or whisper out of hours, or exchange 
needed crayons or paper pads. There is, gen- 
erally speaking, one rule for all, and Johnny 
is reprimanded for whispering, or Jake is com- 
mended for good behavior, without discrimi- 
nation; or if by chance there seems any dis- 
crimination, "teacher" falls under the severe 
censure of all her pupils. The school-room is 
a juvenile democracy with a marked public 
opinion of its own which insists above all 
things upon impartial justice, silently with- 
draws its "mandate" from the instructor who 
has favorites, and ostracizes any pupil so lost , 
to a sense of the social welfare as to become 
"teacher's pet." 

The playground is even more democratic 
than the class-room. There is, in connection 
with the American public school, an important 
institution known as "recess" — an intermis- 
sion of fifteen minutes in the middle of the 
morning and another in the middle of the 
afternoon session. During recess the children, 


in pleasant weather, march out of the building, 
and when the ranks are broken pandemonium 
is let loose. For a moment the struggling mass 
of humanity is a howling mob ; but it is a mob 
which, in true American fashion, quickly ar- 
ranges itself in groups according to the in- 
terests or likings of the individuals composing 
it. Games of all sorts are immediately in 
course; and ordinarily, so far as boys are con- 
cerned, the worth of any boy and his standing 
among his fellows is largely determined by 
his ability to organize attractive games and 
his skill in playing them. Baseball is the 
American national game, and it is the public- 
school playground that chiefly makes it so. 
It is the principal school sport. School-boys 
all know, and nearly all play, baseball; they 
take it with intense seriousness, and it fur- 
nishes an admirable test of strength and en- 
durance, or accuracy, or sure judgment, and 
of self-restraint. But it does more than this. 
On the baseball-field of the public schools all 
the boys of a community, of high or low de- 
gree, good, bad, or indifferent, submit them- 
selves voluntarily to a single test — the test 
of merit in playing the game. And when a 
"team" is organized to compete with a neigh- 
boring school, by common consent the best 
players are chosen. Nothing else counts. It 
might be a choice between the son of the 


President of the United States and a boot- 
black; only one question would be asked — 
which can play the better? And the better 
player would be chosen. The chances are that 
it would be the bootblack. 

This is, on the whole, the spirit which ani- 
mates the boys in respect to their life in the 
public schools. They form an essentially 
democratic community in which all have to 
submit to the same standards of judgment. 
The judgment is essentially direct and fair- 
minded, except perhaps in respect to the odd 
or unusual boy who happens also to be an 
incorrigibly unsocial boy. It is something of 
an ordeal for a new boy — a country boy, for 
example, entering a city school — to be sub- 
jected to the severe scrutiny and the rough- 
and-ready tests which he cannot escape. For 
the attitude of the school-boy is not cosmo- 
politan; the outsider is a foreigner and an 
enemy, and until he is initiated and proves 
himself one of them his life is made a burden. 
School-boys are democratic only within the 
tested group. Toward outsiders they are, 
although very human, scarcely humane or 
engaging. The new boy is at once the ob- 
served of all observers ; the center of frank and 
impertinent and brutal curiosity and criticism; 
the object of friendly insult and intolerable 
familiarity. He is simply being tested, as any 


social group tests a new-comer; the only dif- 
ference is that school-boys have no reticences, 
and they accomplish in three days what with 
their elders would take three months or three 
years. They want to see straight off how the 
new boy will take them and their manners. 
They want to get used to him in the shortest 
order. Above all, the new boy must not cry 
or sulk. Let him grin and stand up to it; 
let him return insult for insult, blow for blow, 
taunt for taunt, and it is soon over; he is ac- 
cepted at once as a brother, and has henceforth 
an equal chance with every member of the 

It is in the lower grades of the public schools 
that the work of Americanizing the foreign- 
born and the children of the foreign-born goes 
on, often with a thoroughness that leaves 
nothing to be desired. Mary Antin has writ- 
ten a fascinating account of her own Amer- 
icanization, and of the notable part which the 
public schools played in it. She was indeed 
an exceptional child — too exceptional to be 
the basis of any generalization; but she speaks 
also for thousands of others upon whom the 
schools have had a similar transforming effect, 
but who were doubtless less conscious of the 
process, or who at least less consciously super- 
vised and promoted it. It is not worth while, 
she says — 


to refer to voluminous school statistics to see just how 
many "green" pupils entered school last September, 
not knowing the days of the week in English, who next 
February will be declaiming patriotic verses in honor 
of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, with a 
foreign accent, indeed, but with plenty of enthusiasm. 
It is enough to know that this hundredfold miracle 
is common to the schools in every part of the United 
States where immigrants are received. 

The miracle is perhaps not often complete 
between September and February. Perhaps 
it is not even a miracle at all, but a very 
natural process of transformation, more or 
less independent of the "enthusiasm" of the 
pupil; but at least the transformation goes on, 
and it goes on much more rapidly in the schools 
than it does anywhere else. 

Miracle or not, the transformation goes on 
in most cases, especially in the case of boys, 
more rapidly and more effectively on the play- 
ground than in the school-room. The little 
German or Italian boy is precisely in the posi- 
tion of a new-comer, except that an extraor- 
dinary curiosity attaches to him on account 
of the odd clothes, or manner, or habit of 
speech that is likely to make him a shining 
mark. All these peculiarities are noted, imi- 
tated in derision, and advertised as fit subjects 
for ridicule. The boy's name is of no im- 
portance; he belongs to a well-known species 


— "Dutch" or "Dago," as the case may be — 
and this little boy, whose parents are so fondly 
endeavoring to keep him in the way of speak- 
ing German or Italian, finds that his constant 
companions regard any "lingo" as reprehen- 
sible. The little boy does not like to be called 
"Dutch" or "Dago," and his one consuming 
ambition is to divest himself of every badge 
or trait, every shred of costume, every man- 
nerism or tone of voice, which might dis- 
tinguish him as "different" from the others. 
Hence he becomes an American with a swift- 
ness that amazes his parents. The process 
which brings about this transformation is a 
bit brutal, but it is effective and enduring. 

The high-schools and universities are es- 
sentially parts of the public-school system in 
fact, even if not always so in law. Instruction 
covers a different field of study and is more ad- 
vanced and mature, but it is not essentially 
different in kind. The high-school pupil stud- 
ies English language and literature, perhaps 
Latin or German, history and government and 
economics, a bit of botany, or physics, or 
possibly chemistry. In the university the same 
subjects, multiplied and specialized, are stud- 
ied, under more competent masters and with 
added facilities and in greater freedom; but 
in method of instruction and in the tests ap- 
plied, the transition from grammar grade to 


high-school, from high-school to university, 
is in no sense revolutionary. Above all, in the 
association of the pupils with one another, 
and in the various activities and " interests " 
which they pursue outside the class-room, the 
same spirit prevails and the same social in- 
fluences are at work as in the grammar grades. 
The high-school and the university pupils 
play the same games, more systematically or- 
ganized, more professionally, and, in the uni- 
versity, at least, in somewhat less of the spirit 
of the "career open to talent.'' To these ac- 
tivities the high-school and university pupils 
add other, more mature and more sophisti- 
cated, social activities — debating and literary 
clubs; literary periodicals and newspapers; 
class organizations with their elected officers, 
and the "politics" that inevitably accompany 
elections; "society" in the narrow sense, with 
its receptions, dances, informal "affairs," and 
the jealousies and aspirations and triumphs 
which attend these things. 

The high-schools and universities, taken as 
a whole, are true reflections of American life. 
Learning has in them as much and as little 
prestige as it has outside. They do not make, 
and do not aim to make, "scholars" of their 
pupils, although the university opens the door 
to the scholarly life for those who seek it. 
Nor does the university make of its pupils a 


distinct class in after-life. There is in both 
high-school and university a good deal of 
youthful snobbery, but in general the experi- 
ence is wholesome, and it tends to liberalize 
the mind and broaden the sympathy of its 
beneficiaries. The members of the higher 
schools are subjected to much the same tests, 
although in more subtle and urbane ways, 
as the members of the lower schools; in a 
wider field, they learn to co-operate or com- 
pete at common tasks with all sorts of people ; 
they learn to detect the substance beneath 
the form, and to accord merit, in them- 
selves and in others, to talent rather than to 

It is a reflection, as well as a confirmation, 
of the democratic character of our society 
that poverty is no bar to a university career. 
In practically every college and university 
there is always a considerable number of stu- 
dents who pay their expenses by working 
during odd hours in term time or throughout 
the summer vacations. There are many col- 
leges in which from 50 to 75 per cent, of the 
students pay their own way in whole or in 
part, a circumstance which is sure to strike 
the European observer of American institu- 
tions as singular, very likely as admirable, 
but at all events as "so American." M. Paul 
Bourget, in his book on America entitled, 


Outre-Mer, gives some specific instances that 
may be taken as typical. 

I remember [he says] when I was in Newport being 
entirely nonplussed by the question of a negro who 
waited upon me in the hotel, a sort of black giant whom 
up to that time I had admired solely for his dexterity 
in carrying on the flat of his hand a tray loaded with 
six or seven entire dinners. 

"Is it true, sir," he asked me, "that you are going 
to write a book about America?" 

"Perhaps," I replied. "But why do you ask?" 

"Because I should much like to have a copy to read 
this winter in college." 

"The negroes are so vain," said a New Yorker, 
to whom I laughingly related this dialogue. "He 
wanted to make you think he knew how to read." . . . 
My witty interlocutor was mistaken. It was not in 
braggadocio that the waiter in the Newport hotel had 
spoken of his college. I had proof of this when . . . 
I received a letter which I cannot refrain from setting 
down here in all its artlessness, so significant does it 
appear to me. 

"I write you a few lines to let you know that I have 
succeeded in entering college as I hoped to do. I 
entered January I, and am getting along very nicely 
with my studies. My wish was to take the full, regular 
course, but I am not able to do so as I must support 
myself while in school. I must therefore content my- 
self with the normal and scientific course. I do not 
precisely know what I shall do next summer. I have 
thought of going back to the hotel in Newport, but 
nothing is decided. I am looking for a copy of your 
book when it is finished." 


What can be the spirit of a college on wnose benches 
a servant, twenty years old and more, may take his 
place for six months in the year, between two terms of 
service, and the fact not appear in the least exceptional ? 

M. Bourget relates the history of another 
student, in Harvard University, of whom he 
learned from Mr. Frank Bolles, the treasurer 
of the university. The statement is worth 
repeating, not because it is exceptional, but 
because it is so common that it would scarcely 
excite comment in any college or university 
in the United States. 

The poor student fixed his freshman expenses at 
$381, his sophomore expenses at $361, those of his 
junior year at $395, and those of his senior year at 
$462. He had $25 of debts when he entered Harvard. 
He was, therefore, obliged to earn money, and a large 
sum of money, during these four years, while at the 
same time pursuing his studies. 

The details of the methods he pursued are very sig- 
nificant. As freshman, he "made" $346, thus divided: 
a prize of £250, a loan of $15 on his watch, $71 earned 
by typewriting for his fellow-students, #8 by selling 
books, $2 by tutoring. 

As sophomore he used the same methods, except that 
in view of the smallness of the prize gained that year, 
he decided to wait at table. His work as waiter brought 
him $38. It may be remarked that this is not an 
isolated case. Many Harvard students gain by this 
means, especially during vacations, the small overplus 
of resources they require. This student, in his second 
vear, added to this business that of preparing the brains 


of sheep for the lectures of Prof. William James, the 
great psychologist. 

The third year — the junior — appears to have been 
easier. Tutoring brought him in more — $120. He 
got work in the library that helped to set him on his 
feet. A large prize which he took in the fourth year 
put an end to his difficulties, and he left college at the 
completion of his studies, having met all his expenses 
during the four years and put aside a small sum of 

This is a perfect specimen of the American student, 
and Mr. Bolles is right in concluding at the close of 
his letter, "A young man who has gone through this 
is certain to succeed in any calling." He cites among 
possible careers railway service, journalism, book- 
publishing, political life, and teaching. The elasticity 
of this program is simply in conformity with the genius 
of a country where a man finds it perfectly natural to 
change his profession at forty, fifty, or sixty years. 
One consequence of this facility of guiding his life in 
the most opposite directions is that the "poor scholar" 
is unknown in the United States. The students who 
wait upon their classmates, napkin on arm and dish 
in hand, and who will presently be sitting on the same 
benches with them, attending the same lectures and 
passing the same examinations, have, if one may so 
speak, taken and given a lesson of destiny. They 
know and they demonstrate that the man of energy 
accepts all and conquers all, if only he will. Neither 
he nor his fellow-students will forget the lesson. 

This is all very true and very admirable. 
The young man whose career M. Bourget 
describes was an excellent young man, and 

the training which he received was an excel- 


lent training for almost any kind of endeavor 
in after-life; but it is obvious that a young 
man with so much seriousness and energy 
would have been able to achieve a great deal 
more in a purely intellectual way if he had not 
been so heavily handicapped by the necessity 
of earning his own living. And the result, in 
colleges where there are so many serious and 
able young men who are handicapped in this 
way, is that the standards of scholarship main- 
tained for obtaining the degree are somewhat 
lowered in order that the impossible may not 
be required of such students. It is a rare 
college or university in the United States in 
which an intelligent student who does not 
have to earn his living may not pass the 
examinations successfully without any very 
concentrated or continued mental effort. 
The presence of a large number of self- 
supporting students is not the only rea- 
son for this, but it is one of the reasons, 
and one of the most difficult to deal with 

The standards for the degree are, of course, 
only a minimum requirement, and they are 
no measure of the quality of the universities. 
Particularly in the better universities, any 
student who has the time, the desire, and the 
ability may obtain intellectual training of a 
high order. Twenty-five years ago so com- 


petent a judge as Mr. Bryce gave his deliber- 
ate nnininn nn this nnint* 

ate opinion on this point 

The higher learning [in the United States] is in no 
danger. The great universities of the East, as well as 
one or two in the West, are already beginning to rival 
the ancient universities of Europe. . . . An Englishman 
who visits America can never feel sure how far his 
judgment has been affected by the warmth of the wel- 
come he receives. But if I may venture to state the 
impression which the American universities have made 
on me, I will say that while of all the institutions of 
the country they are those of which Americans speak 
most modestly, and indeed deprecatingly, they are 
those which seem to be at this moment making the 
swiftest progress and to have the brightest promise 
for the future. They are supplying exactly those 
things which European critics have hitherto found 
lacking to America: and they are contributing to her 
political as well as to her contemplative life elements 
of inestimable worth. 

This is no doubt true, and it is no doubt as 
true now as it was twenty-five years ago, 
although university faculties themselves com- 
plain of the decline of scholarship both among 
the students and among the instructors. It is 
no doubt a part of the business of faculties to 
complain of the decline of scholarship, and 
there is at least little evidence that productive 
scholarship is at a lower level now than for- 
merly. But of course when one speaks of the 
"higher learning" and productive scholarship 


in our universities, or in any universities, one 
has in mind a relatively small part of universi- 
ties as a whole. At least, this is true in respect 
to American universities. Apart from our 
best graduate schools, the greater part of our 
universities, what we call our undergraduate 
colleges, have little to do with productive 
scholarship or the "higher learning." They are 
essentially schools devoted to furnishing stu- 
dents the elements of "general culture "; they 
are in fact scarcely more than extensions of 
the high-schools, and as such they are signif- 
icant in a social rather than in an intellectual 
way; they are significant in reflecting and con- 
firming American life rather than in adding 
to it. Both in high-school and university the 
pupils receive instruction from their teachers, 
and good instruction it often is ; but essentially 
the pupils educate themselves by playing on a 
miniature stage the drama of American life. 
In playing this drama they acquire a keener 
sense of its meaning, a more conscious feeling 
for its spirit and its possibilities. An Amer- 
ican boy may easily go through the public 
schools from the primary grade to the end of 
the college course without acquiring much 
knowledge of books, or any taste for the things 
of the mind, or any capacity for handling 
ideas; but he cannot do so easily without 
meeting all sorts of people, without finding 


his level among these people, without being 
subjected to tests which ignore his pet egoisms 
and his carefully nourished illusions, without 
learning that poverty is not a disgrace nor 
good manners a sign of weakness, without be- 
coming in some measure aware of that es- 
sentially democratic truth that the merit of a 
man is independent of the externals which 
distinguish him, and of the accidents which 
place him high or low in the social scale. 

This has been well enough in the past, but 
it is doubtful whether it will continue to be 
so in the future; and it is a significant fact that 
our school system, from top to bottom, is just 
now under rather general and drastic criticism. 
So long as American life is essentially demo- 
cratic, as it has been in the past, the public 
schools, even if they do no more than to reflect 
and confirm that life, must have a powerful 
democratic influence. But if, as there are 
many indications, and as many people are 
coming to think, American life is becoming less 
democratic than it was — if class divisions are 
becoming more marked and more permanent, 
if political freedom is becoming ineffective 
because economic freedom is disappearing, if 
plutocracy is becoming the substance and de- 
mocracy only the form of American society — 
if this is what the future holds, then the public 
schools can no longer serve democracy to any 


purpose by merely reflecting and confirming 
the conditions of life. Their task, in that case, 
is to work against these conditions. This, in 
a general way, is the task of the public schools 
for the future; and in order to accomplish 
this task they must be informed by a more 
conscious and deliberate purpose than they 
have been; they must devote themselves with 
better talent and greater concentration to 
things intellectual; they must lead and not 
follow the best thought of the age, shape and 
not be shaped by the pressure of economic 
and social tendencies. This will be no slight 
undertaking, but it will be no more difficult 
than democracy itself, of which, indeed, it will 
be an essential condition. 



SINCE the French Revolution liberty and 
equality have been words to conjure with, 
perhaps because their meaning is not capable 
of very precise definition. They are commonly 
used together, as though they were but different 
aspects of the same thing; but many people 
find, upon analysis, that they mean precisely 
opposite things. Men cannot be made equal, 
they say, without being subject to a great deal 
of restraint, for perfect equality would mean 
that no man could be permitted to have what 
any other man could not have, or to do what 
any other man could not do. On the other 
hand, it is maintained, a man cannot be per- 
fectly free unless he is allowed to do as he 
likes. According to these people, therefore, 
the desire for liberty is contrary to the desire 
for equality, so that if liberty is what men 

want they ought to renounce the idea of 


equality, and if equality is what they want 
they ought to renounce the idea of liberty. 

The men who inaugurated the French Revo- 
lution evidently did not think that this was 
true, since they desired and demanded both 
liberty and equality, not to speak of fraternity 
in addition. In their famous "Declaration 
of the Rights of Man and the Citizen" they 
proclaimed that "all men are born free and 
equal in rights"; and they were so far from 
thinking that liberty and equality were in- 
consistent with each other that they defined 
them in the same phrase. "Liberty," they 
said, "consists in the freedom to do every- 
thing which injures no one else; hence the 
exercise of the natural rights of each man has 
no limits except those which assure to the 
other members of society the enjoyment of 
the same rights." This is perfectly clear as a 
principle, although the application of the 
principle may not be very easy. By this 
definition liberty does not mean the right of 
a man to do as he pleases, but only the right 
to do as he pleases in so far as he does not 
please to interfere with the equal right of 
every other man. The emphasis is chiefly on 
equality, for liberty is defined in terms of 
equality; and M. fimile Faguet has written 
a brilliant essay to prove that to the men of 
the Revolution liberty and equality meant the 


same thing; that what they chiefly wanted 
was equality, and that they believed that if 
men had equality they would thereby have all 
the liberty they needed or were likely to want. 


M. Faguet is doubtless right. But even if 
the men of the Revolution had their minds 
fixed primarily upon equality, they expected 
to get it not so much by imposing restraints 
as by removing them. They found themselves 
living in a world where the most glaring in- 
equalities existed; but these inequalities were 
sanctioned by laws and customs which re- 
strained one man from doing what another 
man was permitted to do. The peasant or the 
noble was forbidden to do what the member 
of the industrial gild could do; the gilds- 
man was forbidden to do what the noble 
could do; and every man was forbidden or 
required to do whatever the king might take 
it into his head to command. The men of the 
Revolution were, therefore, convinced that 
the glaring inequalities that existed were due 
to the fact that a man's liberty of action was 
thwarted and restrained at every turn by 
quite senseless restraints. It was for this rea- 
son that they saw liberty and equality as 
two parts of the same thing. They easily 


supposed that if the existing restraints upon 
liberty of action were removed, the existing 
inequalities in conditions between classes and 
individuals would largely disappear. Thus 
they expected to get equality of conditions by 
the simple process of removing the legal re- 
straints upon liberty of action. 

In carrying out this program there were 
three kinds of liberty which they wished to 
establish: personal liberty, industrial liberty, 
and political liberty. By personal liberty they 
meant that no man should be bound to any* 
other contrary to his will, nor subject to arbi- 
trary arrest and imprisonment by the govern- 
ment; and in addition they meant that every 
man should be free to speak and publish his 
opinions. By industrial liberty they meant' 
that every man should have the right to en- 
gage in any legitimate occupation, the right 
to sell his labor by a free contract, the right 
to buy or sell commodities unhampered by 
legally established restrictions or privileges. 
By political liberty they meant the abolition* 
of arbitrary government, the establishment of 
a government controlled by the governed and 
acting only on the sanction of laws which 
should be the same for all. 

The men of the Revolution believed that if 
they established these liberties the desired 
equality would thereby, automatically, as it 


were, be attained. They reasoned that if 
political liberty existed the laws would be 
equitable, because the people who made the 
laws would be the very people who had to 
submit to them. This result would be further 
guaranteed by that freedom of thought which, 
by enabling every man to declare his interest 
and express his opinion, would enable the 
people to know what laws were just and 
equitable. Above all, they reasoned that in- 
dustrial liberty would result in a reasonable 
degree of economic equality; for if every man 
was free to engage in any occupation, to sell 
his labor, or the products of his labor, where 
he could get the most for them, and to buy 
what he needed where he could get it at the 
lowest price, why, then, generally speaking, 
one man would have as good a chance as 
another and each man's share in the common 
wealth would be determined largely by his 
own efforts. Men would no doubt differ in 
ability; but it was supposed that with a sys- 
tem of free elementary education any man of 
reasonable intelligence and industry might 
acquire the skill and practise the frugality 
which would enable him to support himself and 
his family in comfort and content. 

The men who formulated the philosophy 
of the Revolution were mainly of the middle 
class; and in its earlier and later stages the 


Revolution was mainly directed by this class 
— it was what is called a bourgeois movement. 
To these people the idea of achieving equality * 
through the removal of restraints upon liberty 
was entirely satisfactory, and to them it re- 
mained so long after the lower classes found 
it entirely unsatisfactory; they felt that if they 
had enough freedom of action they could take 
care of themselves, and they easily persuaded 
themselves that the peasants and working-men 
would be much better off than they had been. 
The peasants, in France at least, certainly were 
a good deal better off because they came into 
full ownership of their land, and the taxes 
which they paid to the state after the Revolu- 
tion were very much less than the taxes and 
feudal dues which they paid before. But on 
the whole, it must be said that the liberties 
which the Revolution brought with it were 
chiefly advantageous to the bourgeoisie. The 
political freedom which it established, al- 
though based upon the doctrine of popular 
sovereignty, placed the government in the 
hands of the educated people and the owners 
of property; the freedom of opinion and of 
the press for a long time in France meant 
scarcely more than the freedom to express 
such opinions as respectable middle-class peo- 
ple were not afraid of; the industrial freedom 
which followed the abolition of the old medi- 


eval gilds and trade corporations was an ad- 
vantage to the men with capital, but proved 
in the end disastrous to the laborer. The 
"liberty" established by the Revolution was 
indeed mainly a bourgeois affair; and so far 
from working automatically to bring about an 
ideal "equality," it only brought about an 
equality between the middle and upper classes. 
In no respect did the revolutionary theory 

*of liberty and equality break down so com- 
pletely as in the field of industrial activity. 
The revolutionary leaders were so impressed 
with the desirability of complete economic 
freedom that they not only destroyed the old 
legally established gilds and close corpora- 
tions, but they attempted to prevent the for- 
mation of private and voluntary co-operative 
industrial organizations. They were so de- 
termined to make every man economically 
free that when the working-men of Paris 
formed a kind of union in order to fix a mini- 
mum wage, and organized a strike to enforce 
such a wage, and attempted to prevent other 
workers from working for a lower wage, a law 
was passed forbidding citizens engaged in any 
industry or trade to form any organization 
whatever for the regulation of their common 

^interests. This was done on the theory that 
every man must be free to sell his labor or his 
commodities to the highest bidder. Every 


man must be free, whether he wanted to or f 
not, because a man who was subjected even 
to the self-imposed restraints of a labor-union 
would not be in a position of equality with a 
man who was not subject to such restraints. 

For over half a century the revolutionary 
theory that complete freedom of contract in 
the industrial field would bring about the 
greatest degree of economic prosperity for all 
men, the theory of laissez-faire, was the pre- -> 
vailing theory, at least among the ruling 
classes. Everywhere it failed. Everywhere, 
sooner or later, it brought about a glaring 
inequality of wealth. In every country, al- 
though not with the same rapidity, it brought 
about the concentration of wealth and eco- 
nomic power, and therefore of political power 
also, in the hands of great capitalists, bankers, 
manufacturers, and landowners, while the 
mass of the agricultural population remained 
poor, and the laborers in the industrial centers 
were reduced to conditions of life which the 
term " wage-slaves" graphically and accu- 
rately described. 

This result of the revolutionary theory was 
nowhere so soon or so obviously worked out 
as in England; and the reason for that was 
that the industrial revolution, which was 
the most important economic phenomenon of 
the nineteenth century, began first and pro- 


grcssed most rapidly in that country. The 
fact is that the revolutionary theory, on its 
economic side, suited only to society with a 
rudimentary industrial life, has broken down, 
and it is bound to break down in every 
country where industrial life becomes com- 
plex, and in proportion to such complexity. 
In Europe it has therefore broken down in 
every country in proportion to the develop- 
ment of what is called the industrial revo- 

The basis of the industrial revolution is 
the increasing application of material forces 
to the production of wealth. Technical in- 
ventions, the use of steam and electrical power, 
have transformed the processes of the pro- 
duction and the transportation of wealth, and 
have thereby vitally affected the distribution 
of it. The use of machinery makes it possible 
to multiply ten, a hundred, a thousandfold, 
the results of one man's labor. But to get the 
most out of machinery it is necessary to carry 
on industrial operations on a large scale, and 
this means that industry must be concentrated 
at particular points, and it means, above all, 
that the production and transportation of 
wealth cannot be carried on profitably without 
the use of a great deal of wealth to begin with, 
in the form of "capital." Under the conditions 
brought about by the industrial revolution 


capital was, above all, necessary; and accord- 
ingly the possession of great wealth meant 
something more than that its possessor could 
live in a better house and eat better food and 
have better clothes and a better time generally 
than a poor man; it meant that by means of 
his wealth — by investing his capital in great 
industrial enterprises — he could take to him- 
self all that multiplied power which was 
stored up in the steam and electricity and the 
technical machines through which alone the 
production and transportation of commodities 
could be most profitably carried on. 

Under these conditions, to say that every 
man should be free to sell his labor, or the 
products of his labor, to the highest bidder 
sounds much like some huge Rabelaisian pleas- 
antry. The poor man could only sell his labor 
and not the product of it; whereas the rich 
man could sell his labor, plus the product of 
his capital in the form of machine labor, plus 
the product of the labor of the men whom 
his capital employed to work his machines 
for him. This would not have been so in- 
equitable if the laborer could have obtained 
in wages the real share of the product which 
his labor produced. But this he could not do 
because, on account of the unlimited expan- 
sion of machine power in production, there was 
never, or rarely, more capital than could be 


profitably employed, while there were always, 
or nearly always, more laborers than were 
needed, since the use of machines reduced 
relatively the number of laborers required and 
at the same time, through the employment of 
women and children, increased the number of 
laborers available. The result was that the 
individual laborer, who had to work or starve, 
had to sell his labor for what the capital- 
ist would pay for it rather than for what it 

Thus the liberty which the Revolution es- 
tablished in the industrial world meant that 
"to him that hath shall be given, and to him 
that hath not shall be taken away even that 
which he hath." It meant, for the laborer, the 
liberty to sell his labor for a bare existence, 
if happily there was any one who would 
buy it at any price; and it meant, for the 
capitalist, the liberty to sell his own labor 
(if indeed he cared to work at all), plus the 
labor of as many men and as many machines 
as his capital represented. The result has 
been, throughout the nineteenth century, the 
increasing concentration of wealth and of the 
industrial power which it represents in the 
hands of a small class, and the increasing 
power of this small class over the production 
and distribution of wealth, and therefore over 
the lives, the fortunes, and the happiness of 


all. In the economic sense, there is for the 
great mass of men and women neither liberty 
nor equality. Without a much greater degree 
of both than now exists, the personal and 
political liberties which have been so hardly 
won through a century of struggle lose half 
their importance, and democracy itself is 
scarcely more than a pious hope. 


In no country was the eighteenth-century 
philosophy of liberty and equality so con- 
fidently, or perhaps so unconsciously, ac- 
cepted as in the United States ; to no country 
was it so well suited; in no country had it 
(until recently) worked so well or been so 
long unquestioned. 

There are many reasons why this should 
have been so. The United States was, rela- 
tively speaking, accustomed to free govern- 
ment, free speech, freedom of religion, and 
freedom of contract from the earliest days of 
its history. No violent revolution was re- 
quired, as in France, to establish these prin- 
ciples in practice, and the principles them- 
selves never had to win their way against 
powerful and persistent traditions of a dif- 
ferent regime. But above all, the eighteenth- 
century philosophy of liberty was not incon- 


sistent with the existence of essential equality. 
In its origin the United States was almost 
exclusively an agricultural community, and 
until the last quarter of the nineteenth cen- 
tury it has never developed more than a rudi- 
mentary industrial life. The reason for this 
was, of course, the lack of capital at low rates 
of interest, and an abundance of good land 
at very low prices. No industrial laborer was 
likely to work for starvation wages so long 
as he could go West and become the owner of 
one hundred and sixty acres of land for the 
trouble of improving it. So long as any man 
could readily become a landowner, a highly 
complex industrial life could not easily be 
developed, and it remained true that the ex- 
istence of political, personal, and industrial 
liberty did bring about, more or less auto- 
matically, an exceptional degree of equality. 

The conditions which so long existed in the 
United States not only brought about a fair 
degree of equality among individuals, but they 
prevented the formation of any defined or 
persistent class inequalities. Any individual 
could consent with some cheerfulness to be 
poor to-day, since there was always an even 
chance that to-morrow he would be "well 
fixed. " The son of a laborer could without 
undue optimism look forward to becoming an 
employer; the son of a farmer was never des- 


tined to follow the plow, but might reasonably 
aspire to the high dignity of a college pro- 
fessorship. In a country where changes in 
fortune and social status were so rapid and 
so common the people inevitably acquired a 
spirit of buoyant optimism which discounted 
such inequalities as existed; if they had not 
equality they projected it into the immediate 
future, and in that future, rather than in the 
present, they lived their lives. The tragedy 
in the life of Mr. J. M. Barrie's Admirable 
Crichton, says Mr. Herbert Croly — 

was not due to any prohibition of his conversion in 
England, as on the tropic island, into a veritable chief, 
but that on English soil he did not in his own soul want 
any such elevation and distinction. His very loyalty 
to the forms and fabrics of English life kept him fatu- 
ously content with the mean truckling and meaner 
domineering of his position as butler. On the other 
hand, the loyalty of the American to the American 
idea would tend to make him aggressive and self- 
confident. Our democratic prohibition of any but 
occasional social distinctions and our democratic dis- 
like to any suggestion of authentic social inferiority 
have contributed as essentially to the fluid and elastic 
substance of American life as have its abundant and 
accessible economic opportunities. 

Thus it is that for a hundred years, thanks 
to an abundance of land, a settled democratic 
habit of mind, and a people in whom resource- 


fulness and self-confidence have come to be 
almost acquired characteristics, the United 
States preserved an equality of opportunity 
and of conditions quite unknown in Europe. 
It is no wonder, therefore, that the United 
States still preserves a naive faith in the 
political philosophy of the eighteenth century, 
whereas in Europe it has long since been 
abandoned by most forward-looking men. The 
average American still believes that our 
equality is the automatic result of our liberty; 
he still believes that the high average of well- 
being in the United States is the result of free 
government and the superior character of its 
people; he still believes that the theory of 
"supply and demand" is a beautiful doctrine, 
that there is a kind of .magic in the word 
"competition," and that "individual initia- 
tive" is one of the natural rights referred to 
in the Declaration of Independence; he still 
believes that the interest of each and the wel- 
fare of all will continue to be realized in the 
future as in the past by applying the good old 
rule of "every man for himself and the devil 
take the hindmost." Whoever is hindmost, he 
thinks, is so by his own fault ; he has failed to 
take advantage of the opportunities which 
every American has. 

The truth is, of course, that it is not our free 

government, but our fortunate economic situ- 


ation, that has hitherto been the solid basis of 
our equality; and this fortunate situation is 
unhappily rapidly passing away. The close 
of the nineteenth century marks the close of 
an era. It was the period, on the one hand, 
when the great areas of fertile and accessible 
land were occupied; on the other hand, it 
was the period when the United States began 
to develop with amazing rapidity a concen- 
trated and complex industrial life. What 
this transition means should be fairly obvi- 
ous, for it is one of the many advantages of 
the United States that it may, if it will, profit 
by the experience of European countries. 
The industrial revolution has long been an 
accomplished fact in many parts of the Old 
World. The transformation in economic and 
social conditions which it brings in its train, 
the problems which it sets for solution, the 
solutions which have been attempted and 
which have failed or been in part successful, 
are all there revealed as in an open book. 
The obvious fact of our generation is that the 
United States is rapidly passing through the 
earlier stages of the industrial revolution, and 
that it must expect to be confronted with the 
same conditions, however more slowly de- 
veloped or in whatever less acute form, which 
have appeared in those countries where it has 

21 311 

As yet the United States is far from being 
as highly industrialized as England or Bel- 
gium or many other European countries; but 
the significant fact is the rapidity with which 
it is becoming so. Within a generation it has 
acquired the unenviable reputation, which 
many people fatuously take to be a mark of 
virtue, of being pre-eminently the land of 
gigantic trusts and combinations, the country 
of millionaires, the country blessed with the 
"richest man in the world.'' In fact, the 
United States is now known abroad less for 
being the land of liberty than for being the 
land of "big business," and of financial opera- 
tions of a boldness and reach never before 
dreamed of; and within twenty-five years, 
although still one of the greatest agricultural 
countries, the growth of great cities and the 
rapid industrialization of certain regions have 
been so marked that books have been written 
to prove that within no great time New York 
will replace London as the commercial and 
financial center of the world's exchanges. 

Industrial development was, of course, 
bound to come in the United States in pro- 
portion as the best lands were taken, as the 
country became relatively populated, and as 
capital increased and interest declined. The 
natural resources of the country, in the way 
of forests, coal and iron deposits, and other 


essential raw materials, were such that no 
other result was possible or desirable. And 
this inevitable trend of development was de-X 
liberately fostered by the government. From 
an early date the federal government adopted 
the policy of aiding in the construction of 
highways; and the states and cities have 
granted untold wealth to corporations in the 
form of land and franchises in order to induce 
them to construct railroads and street-car 
lines, and to supply gas, electricity, water, and 
telegraph and telephone service. Above all, 
the federal government, during the greater 
part of our history since 1816, has adopted 
the policy of high tariffs for the avowed pur- 
pose of protecting American manufactures 
from European competition. "Infant indus- 
tries," it was argued, needed the paternal and 
fostering care of the government if they were 
ever to grow to maturity; and the giant 
stature which many of these "infants" have 
attained in recent years is due quite as much 
to governmental aid as it is to the "intelli- 
gence and initiative of the American business 
man." This policy of extending governmental 
aid in the industrial development of the coun- 
try has been so extensively and persistently 
followed that from an early date it came to be 
known as "the American system"; and the 
American system was designed to do for 


industry much what the public land policy 
did for agriculture. 

Never was the American system so exten- 
sively practised as after the Civil War; and 
never were the conditions so favorable for the 
development of "big business. " The people 
turned with a sigh of relief from the high 
tension of the slavery controversy and the 
taut emotional enthusiasm of the war to the 
prosaic business of attending to their own 
affairs. American history records no era 
more materially minded than the twenty-five 
years from 1865 to 1890. The South was 
ruined, and the one immediate task was the 
reorganization of its social system and the 
rehabilitation of its economic life. For' a 
generation the North likewise, but with 
greater energy, became absorbed in the en- 
ticing game of exploiting the material re- 
sources of the country. The average man 
felt that, having suppressed the Rebellion and 
abolished slavery, he had done a good job 
and could no longer be expected to be his 
brother's keeper. 

Politics reflected the inevitable reaction 
from the idealism of the war. The defeat of 
the South, and the discredit which that de- 
feat placed upon the Democratic party, left 
the Presidency and the Senate, at least, if 
not the House of Representatives, for the 


most part in the undisputed control of the 
Northern Republicans. Politics still turned 
on the dead issues of the Civil War; and a 
passionate denunciation of the " rebellion," 
of the Southern "traitors" who had led it 
and the Northern "copperheads" who had 
abetted it, was a sufficient qualification to 
elect any candidate to high office. In this 
era of public apathy, of sordid politics, and 
of mediocre statesmen, the industrial brigand 
tied himself to the dominant party and was 
given a free field. The unlovely history of 
many a "big business," builded upon special 
privilege and political corruption and the 
cynical wrecking of small business enterprise, 
was all too common in the last quarter of the 
nineteenth century; and when the public 
conscience began to stir in the 'nineties it was 
confronted with the amazing fact that in this 
land of democracy and equal opportunity a 
large proportion of the wealth of the country 
was in the hands of a relatively small part of 
the population, and that an industrial and 
financial mechanism had been constructed 
through which the magnates of business 
could exercise a dangerous influence upon the 
lives and fortunes of the people. 

For many years the people had watched 
with complacent satisfaction the marvelous 
development of big business. They con- 


gratulated themselves and the country on the 
admirable results of "individual initiative," 
and exhibited an attitude of indifference, or 
even of hostility, toward the efforts of the 
industrial workers to obtain, through unions 
and by means of strikes, a fair wage and 
decent conditions of living. They said that 
these were "un-American" methods; at- 
tempts to restrict the freedom of the indi- 
vidual to work for whom he pleased, and 
under such conditions as he might choose; 
and they were rather pleased than otherwise 
when the great corporations, no doubt in 
order to preserve a free field for "individual 
initiative," employed private detectives and 
private military forces to break up the strikes 
and destroy the effectiveness of labor-unions. 
But in recent years the public has come, or 
must one say only that it is coming, to take a 
different attitude. From about 1890 prices 
began to rise, and they have been continually 
rising since; so that while every one who has 
anything to sell gets more for it, the cost of 
everything he has to buy is so much greater 
that his position is likely to be no better than 
it was. The farmer gets a price for his wheat 
and corn which he never would have dreamed 
of getting twenty-five years ago; but the 
price of land and of machinery is so high that 
the renter finds it difficult to make a living 


and almost out of the question to buy a farm. 
Small business men throughout the country 
find themselves in much the same position. 
For the mass of the people our boasted " pros- 
perity " is largely fictitious prosperity. Mean- 
while "big business" thrives as never before; 
the number of millionaires increases, while 
the chance of the average man's ever becom- 
ing one declines. Under these conditions the 
average man is more and more inclined to 
think that free competition and individual 
initiative are not perhaps among the inherent 
rights of man ; he begins to think that some- 
how those on the " inside," by mysterious 
financial operations, by juggling the "mar- 
ket," by control of the press, and by means of 
political connections, are able to determine 
the prices of essential commodities. Under 
these circumstances a spirit of social unrest is 
arising. Everything seems not well in God's 
country; and many people besides the indus- 
trial laborer are seriously inquiring whether 
the beneficent principle of "individual initia- 
tive" is not, after all, only another name for 
"maintaining a private paternalistic regula- 
tion of other men's affairs." In the United 
States the trend of thought is turning at last, 
as it has long since turned in Europe, from the 
question of the production of wealth to the 
question of its distribution. The problem of 


an equitable distribution of wealth is indeed a 
vital problem of the age. How can it be 
solved satisfactorily ? Does its solution imply- 
any radical modification of our political ideas, 
any fundamental changes in the form and 
characters of our government ? 


In the latter part of November, 191 8, a 
successful lawyer, standing in the lobby of a 
Washington club, having lighted a fragrant 
Havana cigar, was heard to proclaim that it 
was of vital importance that the government 
should immediately restore the railroads, 
telegraph lines, and express companies to 
private hands, and surrender the control over 
industry and labor which it had exercised 
(rightly no doubt) during the emergency of 
the war. "I am opposed,'* he said, "to 
every interference with private initiative. 
Interference with private initiative is a so- 
cialistic doctrine, and it is contrary to the 
spirit of this government** This was a way 
the gentleman took of saying that he was op- 
posed to governmental regulation of business, 
and of justifying that opposition by a fine- 
sounding, idealistic phrase. There are plenty 
of Americans who would applaud both the 
sentiment and the phrase, but one wonders 


whether such people have ever seriously- 
asked themselves what, after all, is the " spirit 
of this government." 

If questioned they would probably say 
that the spirit of this government is one that 
makes for freedom and democracy, and that 
freedom and democracy have been achieved 
by giving the greatest amount of liberty to 
the individual and by the resolute refusal of 
the government to engage in any " socialistic " 
practices. No one would wish to deny that 
the "spirit of this government" is essentially 
favorable to liberty and democracy. What 
Americans pride themselves upon, and on the 
whole with good reason, is precisely that the 
United States has always been a shining 
example of applied democracy. But democ- 
racy means nothing, and has meant nothing, 
in the United States if it does not mean 
equality — not indeed a mechanical and dead- 
ening equality of goods and of conditions and 
of ideas, but a reasonable degree of equality 
of opportunity and well-being. The "spirit 
of this government " must, it would seem, be 
favorable to such equality, and to such 
measures as will effectively realize it. 

Those who are more concerned for the 
rights of property than for the rights of men 
are inclined to make much of the distinction 
between what they call the "principle" of 


Individualism and the "principle" of Col- 
lectivism — between a political philosophy 
which denies and one which commends gov- 
ernmental restriction of individual liberty. 
This is a lawyer's doctrinaire distinction 
which corresponds to no essential reality. 
All government is an interference with in- 
dividual liberty; without governmental in- 
tervention private property as we know it 
would cease to exist. Governments have 
always assumed the right to determine what a 
man may and what he may not do with his 
property. In some countries and in some 
periods the restraints upon the use of property 
have been less in extent, or inspired by a 
different purpose, than in others; but what- 
ever the restraints may have been, they have 
always been ostensibly justified on grounds of 
expediency. It is beating the air to discuss 
whether government should regulate private 
property; private property is the very essence 
of governmental regulation — the most funda- 
mental and far-reaching of all the regulations 
upon which modern society is founded. The 
question which a sensible man will ask himself 
is, therefore, this: under the conditions of life 
as we find them to-day, what objects should 
we have in mind to guide us in the regulation 
of the use of private property, and what sort 

of regulations will prove best adapted to 


attain that object? No questions are an- 
swered and no difficulties solved by saying 
that this kind of regulation accords with the 
"principle of Individualism," while that kind 
of regulation accords with the "principle of 

Moreover, the government of the United 
States appears never to have had much respect 
for the "principle of Individualism." It has 
never hesitated to restrain the "private ini- 
tiative" of some men along some lines, in 
order to aid the " private initiative " of other 
men along other lines. Both the federal and 
the state governments have constantly oc- 
cupied themselves, on a grand scale, with 
schemes designed to furnish citizens with op- 
portunities which they would never have had 
if they had been left to rely wholly upon the 
blessed principle of Individualism. What was 
the public-land policy of the federal gov- 
ernment, by which millions of acres of the 
public domain {public land, be it noted) were 
virtually given away to the poor and needy — 
what was this but a "socialistic" enterprise? 
Is it "private initiative" that has lowered the 
percentage of illiteracy and raised the general 
level of intelligence in the United States? 
Or is this result due in great part to govern- 
mental intervention, in the form of taxes laid 
upon private property in order that every in- 


dividual, poor and rich alike, may have a 
common education free of cost to himself? 
Was the private initiative of our great "cap- 
tains of industry " entirely responsible for 
their amazing success, or did they owe some- 
thing to governmental aid, in the form of 
franchises, protective tariffs, and special laws 
advantageous chiefly to corporations? Our 
"infant industries," whose gigantic stature 
now amazes the world, still clamor, do they 
not, for governmental intervention. It seems, 
in fact, that the only people who just now 
seriously oppose governmental intervention 
are the brewers. According to the philosophy 
of big business in general, one is forced to the 
conclusion that "private initiative" is ade- 
quate only for the laborer and the consumer, 
some degree of governmental intervention be- 
ing still necessary for the capitalist and the 

The truth is indeed that the best traditions 
of the United States, the real "spirit of this 
government," are wholly in favor of whatever 
governmental activity may be necessary to 
assure that fundamental equality of oppor- 
tunity which is indispensable to true liberty 
and the very essence of democracy. Without 
such equality of opportunity, "individual 
initiative" is no more than a sanctimonious 
phrase that tastes sweet in the mouths of the 


fortunate. And if it was proper to equalize 
opportunity and well-being by furnishing the 
people with free land and free schools, it is 
proper to equalize opportunity and well-being 
by assuring an equitable distribution among 
the people of that wealth which is the product 
of their labor and of the resources of the 
country which belongs to them. 

If this can be satisfactorily done by "gov- 
ernmental intervention/* the propriety of 
attempting it is scarcely to be questioned. 
But it is well to remember that govern- 
mental intervention may be quite legitimate 
without being quite adequate; and recent 
events have made it abundantly clear that the 
problem which confronts us is not one involv- 
ing industrial liberty only, but political liberty 
as well. If, therefore, industrial liberty is to 
be achieved through the action of a beneficent 
government, we need to be quite sure that the 
government is beneficent; if the state is to 
give us equality, we need to know whether it 
is likely, in the process, to deprive us of liberty. 
The modern problem, which seems so largely 
economic, does in fact raise the political ques- 
tion in its most fundamental form. For 
many years it has been obvious that the 
eighteenth-century philosophy has been a 
complete failure on its economic side, and 
hitherto we have more or less confidently 


sought a new solution of industrial democracy 
within the framework of the old revolutionary 
political mechanism. To-day this confidence 
is much diminished; and it seems question- 
able indeed whether democracy in any form, 
industrial or political, does not involve a rad- 
ical modification of the modern state rather 
than an extension of its already overgrown 

The modern state still rests, ostensibly, 
upon the revolutionary doctrine of natural 
rights and the popular will, and still func- 
tions, ostensibly, through the revolutionary 
representative mechanism. That the govern- 
ment should be responsive to the popular will 
is indeed still loudly proclaimed ; but it is sig- 
nificant that those aspects of the revolutionary 
political philosophy which are most in evi- 
dence, which are indeed in the way of be- 
coming sacrosanct, are precisely those devices 
for determining and expressing the will of the 
people which no longer do adequately deter- 
mine or express the will of the people. These 
devices are the suffrage and the election, by 
majority vote, of representatives apportioned 
on the basis of population within definite and 
more or less arbitrary territorial areas. The 
will of the people is thus identified with the 
wiH of the majority, irrespective of the ques- 
tions to be decided by the majority or of the 


composition of the groups which make the 
majority and the minority in any given case. 
Generally speaking, majority rule is a 
practicable device for determining the will of 
the people only under two essential conditions. 
The first of these conditions is that the matter 
about which the decision is to be binding on 
all should be one which it is generally agreed 
should be decided in one way for all. Few 
people believe in majority rule in respect to 
religious practices, and no one believes in 
majority rule in respect to the color of neck- 
ties. Other things equal, majority rule works 
well in respect to any line of conduct in pro- 
portion as the people concerned are agreed 
that it is a matter calling for a common de- 
cision. The second condition, closely con- 
nected with the first, is that the group or com- 
munity within which the rule of the majority 
is to be applied should possess a high degree 
of solidarity. In a group in which all have 
much the same possessions, standards of life, 
and moral prepossessions, majority rule works 
well enough precisely because the ideas and 
interests of the minority are not so radically 
different from those of the majority that they 
cannot readily submit to the decision of the 
majority. The will of the people is suffi- 
ciently expressed by the will of the majority 
only when the minority "wills" to let it go 


at that. But when the minority is a more or 
less fixed group, whose ideas and interests are 
radically different from those of the majority, 
or are thought to be so, then majority rule 
ceases to be "government by the people" and 
becomes the oppression of one group by 

Now the industrial revolution has brought 
about a situation in these respects to which 
the old mechanism of representation is be- 
coming unsuited. The old mechanism of rep- 
resentation was based upon the assumption 
precisely that, given free thought, free schools, 
and free contract, inequalities within the elec- 
torate would tend to disappear; it was sup- 
posed that the " people " would more and 
more be shaped, by the operation of these 
"liberties," to a common type in respect to 
material conditions, spiritual aspirations, and 
civic ideals. It need scarcely be pointed out 
that this has not proved to be the case. In 
place of nations of individuals, all more or 
less alike in respect to conditions and ideas, 
the industrial revolution has given us nations 
differentiated into classes and corporate and 
occupational groups, more or less different 
and often sharply antagonistic; and the lines 
of division have little or nothing to do with 
the territorial areas upon which political rep- 
resentation is based. 


Inevitably, therefore, when a given eco- 
nomic group finds its interests inadequately 
represented within the political framework it 
endeavors to get its interests " represented " 
outside of it — it forms an organization based 
upon its economic interests and uses its 
economic power, if it has any, to exert extra- 
political pressure. The most striking ex- 
amples of this phenomenon are of course the 
activities for many years past of the capital- 
ist and labor groups. In 1917, when the 
labor-unions threatened to tie up all the rail- 
roads of the country, many people said that 
it was an "outrage" that the representatives 
of the unions should be allowed to "dictate" 
to the government of the United States. 
These people conveniently forgot that for a 
quarter of a century the capitalist and manu- 
facturing groups had been sending their 
"representatives" to Washington, where they 
also "dictated," more urbanely no doubt, to 
the government of the United States. That 
either group, laborers or capitalists, should 
"dictate" the policy of the government is an 
"outrage," if you like, although no more so in 
the one case than in the other. But it is 
useless to cry "outrage." What has to be 
faced is a situation in which the government 
finds it necessary to submit to dictation by 
special groups; and this situation arises, in 
a 327 

part at least, from the fact that our political 
machinery is no longer well adapted to our 
economic organization. The government, 
nominally composed of persons chosen to 
represent the will of the people in certain 
territorial areas, finds that the crucial prob- 
lems of the time cannot be solved without 
taking into account the will of the people 
grouped in certain economic categories. This 
is doubtless the real source of the diminished 
state of Congressmen and Senators. What 
they too often legally represent is a group of 
people without any definite common will to 
be expressed; what they have to deal with 
are groups of people who can get their will 
expressed only by using their extra-legal 
economic power as a means of dictation. 

Such dictation is not new; what is new is 
that the labor groups have recently acquired 
sufficient economic power to compete with the 
capitalist groups for the control of the govern- 
ment. If labor dictation seems more revolu- 
tionary than capitalist dictation, the reason 
is that whereas labor is dissatisfied with the 
present political and economic regime, capital 
has been and is desirous of maintaining the 
present political and economic regime. It 
is manifestly to the interest of the capitalist 
groups, in whose hands the industrial revo- 
lution has placed such tremendous power, to 


maintain the capitalist regime at home, and 
to promote, through imperialist methods, their 
interests abroad. Professing unlimited faith 
in democracy and the rule of the majority, 
they are, therefore, above all others interested 
in maintaining unimpaired the fiction of na- 
tional solidarity, and above all others inter- 
ested in magnifying the state and in divest- 
ing it of responsibility both at home and 
abroad. In view of the persistent rivalry of 
nations with one another in a world of inter- 
national anarchy, the prevailing nationalist 
psychology makes it relatively easy to iden- 
tify the will of the dominant group with the 
will of the "people," and the interest of the 
dominant group with the "honor" or the 
"vital interest " of the nation. Confronted 
always with the menace of war and conquest, 
the disposition is always strong, and in times 
of crisis becomes irresistible, to place the 
"honor" and the "vital interest" of the na- 
tion unreservedly in the hands of the govern- 
ment and to assume that the government 
speaks for an undifferentiated nation. In the 
last analysis truth and virtue become indis- 
tinguishable from "loyalty" — loyalty to the 
government and submission to the state. 

Thus on the basis of popular sovereignty 
and national independence, in origin a pro- 
test against the divine right of kings, there 


has been erected in our day the doctrine of the 
divine right of the state and the absolutism of 
the majority. To-day this absolutism is at 
the disposal of the capitalist class ; to-morrow 
it may be at the disposal of the proletariat. 
The danger is much the same in either case. 
What the dominant class, whether labor or 
capital, really fears is not a government which 
either obtains or destroys liberty; what it 
fears is an all-powerful government which it 
does not control; what it desires is an all- 
powemil government which can be used 
primarily in the service of its own interests. 
A genuine friend of mankind, one who esti- 
mates civilization in terms of the spiritual as 
well as the material life, has little to hope for 
from the conception of an absolute state for 
which obedience is the only virtue and force 
the only test of right. Such a state, failing 
to effect a genuine reconciliation of contending 
interests and aspirations, seems destined to be 
a mere instrument in the hands of self-seeking 
groups engaged in a desolating class conflict. 

"The autocracy of individuals," says Pro- 
fessor Pollard, " is something of a myth, and 
the real enemy of civilization, as it is the real 
parent of militarism, is the autocracy of the 
state, which is not confined to the Central 
Empires and their allies. This is also the 
truth about irresponsibility. The irrespon- 


sibility of monarchs to their peoples is a mat- 
ter of detail compared with the irresponsibility 
of the state. // the state can do what it likes, 
frame its own code of international conduct, and 
dictate its own conception of truth and morals, 
it is immaterial to those who suffer whether that 
dictation comes from a despot or a democracy ." 
These are words which may well give us pause. 
It is indeed questionable whether "industrial 
liberty," or liberty in any sense, can be 
achieved through the activities of a state 
which, on the assumption that it speaks for a 
majority, can frame its own code of interna- 
tional conduct and dictate its own conception 
of truth and morals. Democracy under these 
conditions is scarcely the kind of democracy 
the world needs to be made safe for. 

The concentration of economic power in the 
hands of a class, the more or less effective con- 
trol of the state by this class, the rationaliza- 
tion of the state so controlled on some founda- 
tion of divine right or of papal or popular 
infallibility — these are indeed old enemies of 
human welfare. They have appeared in every 
stage of history, and the latter-day result of 
the political and industrial revolutions of the 
last two centuries have been chiefly to present 
them in new forms. That these old enemies 
have taken on the protective coloring of de- 
mocracy makes them no less real, but only 


more insidious. To mistake the form for the 
substance of democracy, to assume with com- 
placence that institutions under which liberties 
were once won will always guarantee them — 
this will be, for any people in the twentieth 
century, to court disaster. It is perhaps the 
peculiar danger of the United States. The 
time for national complacency is past. The 
sentimentalism which turns away from facts 
to feed on platitudes, the provincialism which 
fears ideas and plays at politics in the spirit 
of the gambler or the amateur, will no longer 
serve. The time has come when the people 
of the United States must bring all their intel- 
ligence and all their idealism to the considera- 
tion of the subtler realities of human relations, 
as they have formerly to the much simpler 
realities of material existence: this at least 
they must do if America is to be in the future 
what it has been in the past — a fruitful ex- 
periment in democracy. 



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